DAV Virtual Town Hall
VA Committee Chair Answers Questions
House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller
House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) joined DAV online for about an hour Sept. 19 to take questions and comments from DAV’s Facebook fans, Twitter followers and website visitors. Some 29,000 people from around the country logged on, sending the chairman hundreds of questions.
Here is an excerpt of the virtual town hall meeting. The full archived chat log is available at www.DAV.org/TownHall
This meeting was just one in a series of opportunities DAV provides its online community. “Like” DAV’s official page at www.facebook.com/the.DAV
to ensure you know when future virtual town hall meetings are scheduled.
: I am a veteran and I use VA. I have a service dog, but my VA hospital won't let me bring my dog to my mental health clinic appointment. Do you believe that all disabled veterans with service dogs ought to be able to bring those dogs with them?
: There is no reason that I am aware of that your local VA should not allow you to be accompanied by your service dog. There is a VHA directive that we pushed VA to issue that allows veterans to be accompanied by their service dogs in addition to guide dogs.
: Do we have any definitive legislation that has been enacted relative to the sequestration? We keep hearing that benefits won't be affected, but what about other parts of the VA budget?
: For the past year, I have worked to ensure that funding for VA is not cut under possible sequestration and introduced a bill to make it clear VA was exempt. I have asked numerous officials for straight answers. After nearly a year of conflicting responses and non-responses, the Administration finally took VA off the table completely in a report released last week on how the Administration would implement a sequester if required.
: We would love to see more funding in the area of outreach for women veterans.
: We are proud of the service [of] our women warriors. We are working right now to ensure our female veterans get the care they need. I agree, VA needs to do more outreach to the women who have served our nation.
: The Board of Veterans Appeals has remanded many cases back to the Regional Office / Appeals Management Center (AMC). When the AMC completes a rating decision, it can take up to six months to actually process and pay the veteran a benefit. These go back many years. The AMC should be instructed to rate the case and instructed to promulgate the case within five days or send it back to the regional office jurisdiction to promulgate. The way that it is now is creating financial hardships and sometimes can place our veterans in harm’s way due to their mental health. What can we do to get the job done?
: I am continuing to oversee the efficiency of the appeals management process, and some changes are taking effect as we start receiving results from an appeals pilot program that is currently taking place at the Houston RO.
: I find it frustrating that existing claims do not have access to the automated system, only new claims, as I understand it. This would add greater accountability for those claims that have been put on the back burner, so to speak. Any plans to remedy this by requiring all claims to be accessible through the online system?
: VA is developing a new computer claims processing system called the Veterans Benefits Management System or VBMS. According to VA, the system will provide significant improvement and automation of claims processing. In the end though, VA is still receiving well over a million claims each year and this year, they will process about a million. So they are still behind the input rate. Also, claims are now averaging many more issues per claim which take more time to process. We are keeping a close eye on the progress of VBMS and hopefully, it will meet VA's claimed advances.
: What are you doing for bases other than Camp Lejeune for trichloroethylene contamination? Tyndall AFB, Panama City, Fla., is contaminated. They are not sharing this info with the public.
: All decisions for benefits based on environmental toxins must be based on scientific evidence. The Committee will continue to ensure that scientific studies are conducted and respond to the results accordingly. Please send any information you have on this issue to the Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee at http://veterans.house.gov/subcommittees/report-waste-fraud-and-abuse
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