Tester, Baucus announce quicker claims processing for Montana veterans

February 16, 2012

Fort Harrison selected as national test site to improve claims processing

(U.S. SENATE) – Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus are heralding news that VA Montana has been selected as a national test site to speed up claims processing for Montana’s veterans.

Fort Harrison was selected as one of three sites in the nation to serve as a test location for the Veterans Benefits Administration proposal to streamline the claims process.  Tester met last month with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to personally ask for additional initiatives for Fort Harrison.

The Veterans Administration has faced a backlog in processing claims from veterans seeking earned benefits relating to disability compensation and education benefits.  The VA nationwide currently has nearly 600,000 claims that have been pending for over 125 days.

Tester and Baucus have repeatedly pushed the VA to speed-up the claims process, saying veterans deserve timely service.

The backlog at the VA has grown substantially since veterans began returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.  Tester has used his position on the Veterans Affairs Committee to push the VA to address the backlog by providing better training to staff tasked with reviewing claims, streamlining paperwork, and transitioning to an electronic system to standardize the system.

Tester and Baucus recently wrote a letter to Shinseki asking him to consider moving the VBA Regional Director’s office from Salt Lake City to Fort Harrison.  The Senators have repeatedly pushed for the VA to include Montana in many of its new initiatives because of Fort Harrison’s track record of performance and experience.

Today’s news from the VA will mean seven new jobs at Fort Harrison.

Tester brought Shinseki to tour Fort Harrison in July.  During that visit, Shinseki was impressed with the performance of the staff at the VA.

“Montana’s veterans deserve timely answers to their claims, and long delays that threaten health care are unacceptable ” said Tester, Montana’s only member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. “This is good news for all of the veterans currently caught up in the paperwork at the VA.  I look forward to Fort Harrison improving the claims process and serving as a model for the rest of the country.”

“It is a disgrace that our veterans have to wait so long to find out whether they are eligible for benefits,” said Baucus.  “In many cases, veterans sustain these injuries serving our country overseas and they should not have to wait so long to find out whether they are eligible for benefits they not only deserve, but have earned.  I’m proud of the hard-working folks at Fort Harrison for helping reduce the backlog of our veterans’ disability claims.  Now, Fort Harrison will remain on the cutting edge by helping the VA make the changes necessary to rise to the level of service our veterans deserve.”

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