CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Tuesday, June 21, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 3936, the Veterans Engagement Team (VET) Act, as amended, under suspension of the rules. The bill was introduced on November 5, 2015, by Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA) and referred to the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. The Committee considered H.R. 3936 during consideration of H.R. 4782, the Veterans Compensation Cost of Living Adjustment Act of 2016, on May 18, 2016.
H.R. 3936 authorizes a three-year pilot program, beginning no later than October 1, 2016, for Veteran Engagement Team (VET) events. VET events provide the opportunity for veterans to receive one-on-one assistance from VA employees to help complete disability and pension claims. The Secretary is required to ensure there is at least one event a month during the first year of the pilot programs within the jurisdiction of 10 regional offices of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and 15 regional offices during the second and third years of the pilot program. Each event must be carried out at different locations at least 50 miles away from a regional office throughout the jurisdiction of the regional office, provide a sufficient number of physicians, veteran service representatives, and other personnel to assist and finalize the completion and adjudication of claims, and ensure a veteran who is unable to complete and adjudicate a claim is informed of what additional information or actions are necessary. The Secretary is not permitted to permanently transfer any physician employed by the VA for the purpose of staffing a VET event, and no additional amounts are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this legislation. Further, the Secretary shall collect and analyze information collected through customer satisfaction surveys of veterans who received assistance at VET events. Finally, H.R. 3936 limits awards and bonuses paid to VA employees to $250 million in FY 2017.
According to the Veterans Benefits Administration, there are currently approximately 364,000 pending claims, approximately 76,000 of which have been waiting for a decision for more than 125 days.
Previously, this method has been tested through the American Legion. The Legion has put veterans in direct contact with Veteran Crisis Command Centers, resulting in a restoration of trust between veterans and the organizations as well as many veterans receiving the benefits they had been waiting on for years.
According to the bill’s sponsor, “Veterans are people, not just claims numbers. As we have repeatedly seen, we need a culture of change at the VA Regional Offices […] and the VET Act is an effort to move the VA forward. By bringing the convenience of these events directly to our communitities, we are taking a step in the right direction to provide the personalized care the veterans need and deserve. Our legislation will provide more transparency and accountability so that veterans can solve any challenges they have faced throughout the claims process.”
 See http://benefits.va.gov/REPORTS/detailed_claims_data.asp
 See Rep. Costello’s Press Release, “Costello, Fitzpatrick Introduce Bill to Connect Veterans, VA” November 6, 2015.
A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate is not currently available. However, CBO has informally estimated that the bill would result in an insignificant reduction in discretionary costs.
For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190.