04.23.08

Burr Calls For Reform of DOD and VA Disability System

Burr legislation would simplify and update disability process

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Richard Burr today called for reform of the disability system at the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). He made the comments during a Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs hearing. The committee examined the work of the joint VA and DOD Senior Oversight Committee, which is tasked with helping the two departments better serve injured servicemembers through coordination and cooperation. As part of these efforts, the departments have started a pilot program to try to streamline the disability system.

"For more than five decades experts have been telling us that we need to update, simplify, and modernize the disability system," Burr said. "An injured servicemember may go through a lengthy, complex and duplicative process with the Department of Defense and VA to obtain two different disability ratings. Both ratings are based on the same outdated VA rating schedule and confusing rules may limit the benefits a veteran can get from DOD and VA at the same time."

"Both Departments are exploring ways to improve the existing system over the short term. But as General Peter Schoomaker recently said, 'When you speed up a bad process, all you have is a fast bad process.' Our wounded warriors deserve better than that. It is long past time for Congress to fix the system and make lasting improvements that will benefit veterans for generations to come."

Burr introduced the America's Wounded Warriors Act (S.2674) in February. The legislation aims to fix many of the problems discussed during the committee hearing today. The bill would simplify the process by ending the duplicative system that requires all injured veterans to get rated by both VA and DOD. Veterans would receive their entire DOD benefits, plus any VA disability benefits, putting an end to the confusing practice of offsetting those payments. Veterans discharged from service because of disability would be eligible for transition payments to help cover family living expenses so injured veterans can focus on getting better and leading a more normal life.