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Witness Testimony of The Honorable Jon Runyan, Chairman, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs

Good afternoon and welcome everyone.  This oversight hearing of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs will now come to order.

Before I begin with today’s hearing topic, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the events of today’s date twelve years ago when a series of coordinated terror attacks were launched in New York City and here in Washington, DC. 

With New Jersey's Third district in close proximity to New York City, the impact of the September 11th  attacks were felt immediately to many of those in my District, as they were across our country.  These wounds are still healing, as many of our nation’s servicemembers and veterans have served post 9/11 in support of homeland defense, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and other overseas operations.

On the anniversary of September 11th and every day, we must all appreciate and remember what America’s veterans have done to secure our freedoms. 

I know Ranking Member Titus and the other members of the DAMA Subcommittee share my commitment to ensuring that every hearing we hold addresses important issues concerning those who have bravely served our nation.

That is why we are here today to focus on the Fully Developed Claims process, or FDC to look at this as an avenue to speed up the claims process for our veterans.

An FDC is an optional program through the Veterans Benefits Administration that allows veterans to receive a faster decision on their claim by certifying that all relevant records in their possession have been obtained and submitted, rather than just filing the claim and having VA perform this development.

In addition, Congress passed a law last year that went into effect on August 6, 2013, allowing claimants to receive up to one year of retroactive benefits as an incentive for filing a FDC.

In order to increase awareness of these incentives the VA has partnered with various Veterans Service Organizations - many of whom are here to testify today - about their outreach efforts and experience with the FDC program.

However, this Committee will always remain vigilant in its oversight of this and all other new VA initiatives.  It is critical to ensure that the program is truly helping veterans receive timely and accurate benefits decisions, rather than just looking for ways to shift the VA’s workload.

With that, I would like to welcome our witnesses.  Thank you all for being here today. 

Our first panel consists of Mr. Thomas Murphy, Director of Compensation Service, with the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

Our second panel consists of several VSOs, including Ms. Verna Jones, Director, Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission, for the American Legion;

Mr. Steven Wolf, Assistant National Service Director for the Disabled American Veterans;

Ms. Diane M. Zumatto, the National Legislative Director for AMVETS;

And Mr. W. Clyde Marsh, the President of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs.

We also have several statements for the record that have been submitted from various organizations, and I would like to thank all of those who submitted them for today’s hearing.

With those introductions complete, I am eager to hear from all of our witnesses on the implementation of the FDC process. 

 I now yield to our Ranking Member for her opening statement.