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Opening Statement of Hon. Doug Lamborn, Ranking Republican Member, and a Representative in Congress from the State of Colorado

Thank you Mr. Chairman and I thank you for inviting me here to New Windsor to hear from witnesses on the personal costs claims backlog. Before I begin I also want to recognize Larry Schulman the National Commander of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA.  Thank you for your attendance today sir and I look forward to working with you in coming year.

As everyone is aware the VA’s compensation and pension backlog has reached an epic and regretable level. 

The over 400,000 disability compensation claims in the backlog are not just marks on an inventory sheet but represent a real veteran or their family who is waiting patiently for VBA to adjudicate their claim in an accurate and timely manner.

In reading the testimony of the second and third panel it seems to be that there is much work to be done in reaching this “human level”.  I am also not convinced that if we had this same hearing in my home state of Colorado that we would not find other veterans with similar problems of those veterans with us today.

VA has set a goal to decide a given claim in an average of 125 days.  While more than four months strains the meaning of the word “prompt,” it is not unreasonable, given the complexity and demands of the Veterans Claims Assistance Act and other administrative requirements. 

Now we need VA to “just do it.”

I know that we in Congress bear some responsibly for all this complexity and I am always looking for ways to help improve the bureaucratic process, while safeguarding it for veterans. 

That is why my staff and I have consistently asked VA to help us help you.  To the VA I say, send us legislative proposals and solutions for all of the challenges that are listed in Mr. Wolcoff’s written testimony.

While I acknowledge that there is no silver bullet that will eliminate the backlog, I believe that we can take immediate, vital action by passing my bill H.R. 3047, the Veterans Claims Processing Innovation Act of 2007.  This would be an important first step to helping solve problems in the VA claims process.

H.R. 3047 will bring VA’s compensation and pension system into the 21st century.  By increasing accountability and leveraging technology at the Veterans Benefits Administration, this bill would improve the accuracy and speed of benefits claims.

While I agree that VBA is making some improvements in terms of timeliness and needs to be adequately staffed, I am concerned that quality is being sacrificed in the name of speed. 

Mr. Chairman I know we can both agree that after our two hearings this session, on the Board of Veterans Appeals and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, that accuracy is a problem system wide. 

One way to improve this is by increased training and accountability at VBA, something that is included in H.R. 3047 by requiring an independent agency to review and certify VA’s training programs.

I would rather have a veteran wait just a little bit longer for an accurate and fair rating then have them receive their rating quickly and it be wrong.  It is impetrative that all claims are done right the first time and I know that improving training is the first step towards this.

I thank you Mr. Chairman for promising to hold a legislative hearing on H.R. 3047 later this month.

I want to thank the witnesses for their testimony and my good friend Chairman John Hall for inviting me here this morning, and I yield back.