Opening Statement of Hon. Doug Lamborn, Ranking Republican Member, and a Representative in Congress from the State of Colorado
Thank you Mr. Chairman for recognizing me. I thank you for holding this hearing on the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and its role in the efficient processing of disability compensation claims.
I welcome our witnesses, especially Chief Judge Greene, and thank you all for your contributions to the veterans’ affairs system.
The court has come far since its 1988 founding, and by all accounts is largely producing quality decisions.
Judge Greene, you are to be commended for making use of Title 38 and recalling five retired judges to increase your productivity. I note the emphasis you place on a dedicated courthouse and adequate room for a growing court, and am most interested in ensuring you have the facilities you need.
We face an unprecedented challenge as the number of compensation and pension claims increase faster than VA’s ability to process them. Further, accuracy is not what it should be, driving up appeals; and we are seeing among veterans a growing propensity to appeal.
These factors have already had a dramatic effect on the court’s workload, which has essentially doubled in the last ten years. The number of pending cases is double the number pending three years ago and more than three times the number pending a decade ago.
We must be attentive to the court’s ability to handle demands which presumably will continue to climb.
I am, therefore, interested in learning more about the efficiency of the court’s operations. The phenomenon called the “hamster wheel” has caught my eye.
Perhaps there is good rationale, but it seems inefficient for a veteran to appeal a multi-issue denial from the Board of Veterans Appeals, only to see one issue addressed, and perhaps remanded or vacated by the court at a time.
According to testimony we have received, this stretches the appeals process for often aging veterans by years. I do not believe that the court is required to do business this way, nor would it appear that it contributes to higher court productivity.
Our veterans deserve the best benefits delivery system we can provide. In my brief period as ranking member, I have learned much about that system. I was pleased to work with Chairman Hall over the past few weeks on legislation that would improve how we serve veterans applying for benefits that they earned.
In the testimony we have read numerous suggestions regarding the court’s operations, and I now look forward to our discussion on this essential facet of the benefits system.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back.