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Chairman Luttrell During Hearing on Disability Claims Communications: “Our veterans deserve better than to be confused and misdirected by VA.”

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Rep. Morgan Luttrell (R-Texas), the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, delivered the following opening remarks, as prepared, at the start of the subcommittee’s oversight hearing on the importance of simplifying the notice letters VA sends veterans who file claims for V.A. benefits:


The subcommittee will come to order.


Good afternoon, everyone.


Thank you to all of our witnesses for being here.


Today, we are here to take a closer look at the notice letters that VA sends to veterans who file claims for V.A. benefits.


The V.A. disability claims and appeals process is like a complex maze. 


VA’s notice letters are supposed to be easy-to-understand directions through that maze, so that veterans can easily navigate the claims process and receive the benefits they have earned.


But for far too long, VA’s notice letters have been unnecessarily lengthy, complicated, and filled with legal terminology.


Some letters provide conflicting or unclear instructions. Others don’t provide enough information.


The V.A. claims system is supposed to be veteran-friendly, and our veterans deserve better than to be confused and misdirected by V.A. 


It’s time for us to simplify V.A.’s notice letters and ensure every veteran can easily navigate the VA disability claims process.


The Veterans Benefits Administration’s Language Change Control Board has attempted to improve these letters, including based on feedback from Veteran Service Organizations.


But V.B.A.’s efforts to make notice letters more comprehensive have led to longer, more disorganized, and more complex letters, not clarity.


And even though we constantly hear complaints from veterans that V.A.’s letters are confusing, the V.A. Board of Veterans’ Appeals ignores that feedback from veterans and their representatives.


The Board makes no effort to improve its letters unless the law compels them to do so.


Instead of providing clear directions to navigate the disability claims and appeals process, it seems V.A.’s notice letters have become puzzles that only lawyers and experienced V.S.O.s can read.


Confusing notice letters have real consequences.


Some of our veterans and survivors feel overwhelmed by the complexity of these letters and abandon their claims.  Many experience anxiety, depression, and panic when they receive these letters. 


I understand their frustration.  Even I had trouble making sense of the letters I received from V.A. when I was going through the V.A. claims process.


Congress has passed legislation to clarify V.A.’s notice letters, but there’s still more work to be done.


We must ensure that our veterans can easily understand how to pursue their claims without having to decode lengthy letters at every step of the claims process.


We owe our veterans clear and concise communications.


Now, let’s get to work on making this right.


Today, we will be hearing from VA, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the National Organization of Veterans Advocates, to learn more about how we can improve and simply V.A.’s notice letters.


With that, I yield to Ranking Member Pappas for his opening statement.
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