Costa Supports Bill to Get VA Cases Back on Track
Legislation Invests in Ending Homelessness among Veterans
Washington, DC – Rep. Jim Costa supported legislation which cleared the House of Representatives today and builds on the nation’s commitment to supporting former service members and providing the resources necessary for construction and upkeep of military facilities. The 2014 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act included tough language that would eliminate the shameful backlog of benefit cases at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and would also invest in programs that are helping end homelessness among the nation’s veterans. The legislation now awaits approval in the Senate before it is sent to the President for his signature.
“We have a promise to the brave men and women of our armed services to stand with them when they return home,” said Costa.“This is a bill that lives up to that commitment by laying the groundwork to repair areas where we have faltered in the past. From helping ensure that every veteran has a place to call home to guaranteeing they receive the benefits they have earned in a timely manner, this is an important step on that road that rights the wrongs of recent years.”
Among other things, the legislation fully funds the paperless information technology system designed to speed the processing of benefits claims. The legislation also creates aggressive monthly reporting requirements for the VA Regional Offices that will help hold the VA accountable in living up to its promise of speedy claims processing.
Currently, the Oakland VA Regional Office that serves the majority of veterans in the Valley has one of the largest loads of backlogged cases with more than 80 percent of claims waiting over 125 days. From the day a veteran walks in the door to the day a benefit is issued takes about 541 days if it is processed in Oakland, or about 225 days longer than the national average.
The bill also includes a $1 billion investment in VA homeless assistance programs that have provided critical funds to the Fresno Housing Authority which have allowed them to provide permanent housing to homeless Valley Veterans. Currently, the Authority is providing service to 145 veterans through the Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program and was recently awarded another grant to assist another 70 homeless veterans.