Reed and Local Veterans Gather to Talk Priorities
Rep. Tom Reed brought local veterans around the table Tuesday at the VFW Post in Sheridan to discuss the current legislative landscape for veterans and priorities for veterans included in the recently passed consolidated appropriations bill. Specifically, Reed highlighted a significant increase in funding for overcoming the veterans’ disability claims backlog.
“Today’s discussion was about priorities: priorities for our veterans and how we prioritize care for our veterans here at home and down in Washington,” Reed said. “Our first priority is making sure that without a doubt, those who served our country are taken care of when they come home. Putting veterans first needs to be a national priority. One way we can make that a reality is by prioritizing resources for veterans, whether that means funding for housing, PTSD treatment, care for veterans’ cemeteries, or ensuring veterans get their due benefits.”
“Our office is always a resource available to veterans looking for answers about what help is offered through the VA, veteran service organizations and county-level offices. We have a committed team member in our Corning office dedicated to helping constituents with all veteran-related issues and welcome any veteran in need to stop by our office or give us a call.”
The consolidated appropriations bill recently passed in the House includes $140 million for information technology upgrades to help the VA meet its self-set goal of ending the disability compensation claims backlog by 2015. An additional $88 million has been designated for the Board of Veterans Appeals intended to help reduce the backlog of pending claims and $10 million in funding to train claims processors.
Reed has been vocal in ending the backlog and said the additional funding devoted to those efforts should help veterans get their claims in a more timely manner: “By prioritizing funding on technology upgrades to improve paperless claims processing and better training for claims processors, we’re taking a step in the right direction to reduce the backlog and get veterans the benefits they are due,” Reed continued. “It’s not enough to allocate money toward projects though, there has to be a check on that money. That’s why the funding combating the backlog includes provisions directing audits to assess performance with regular reporting – a fair and essential way to measure the success of funding.”
The group also discussed a fix included in the bill to give medically retired armed forces personnel and survivor benefit plan recipients their full pension without reduction. Reed co-sponsored legislation preventing that reduction in benefits, worked with the Veterans’ Affairs Committee to ensure its inclusion in the final appropriations bill and will continue to push for that fix to expand to all veterans.
The consolidated appropriations bill passed in the House last week saves taxpayers $21 billion this year and contributes to $165 billion in savings in discretionary spending since fiscal year 2010.