Walz, Franken Push to End VA Backlog

Posted at: 08/23/2013 7:02 PM
By: Jenna Lohse

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- There are hundreds of thousands of military veterans who are waiting to get benefits they need. They range from medical, to financial assistance. It's an ongoing problem, with some waiting more than a year to get help.   

Locally when it comes to medical care, many veterans are required to travel to the twin cities. It's one of the things two Minnesota lawmakers, are working to change for our service men and women. 

One of the things congressman Tim Walz wants to do is allow veterans to visit their local doctors for medical exams that can be used on a claim.

Many local veterans think it's a step in the right direction.

"I was supposed to start receiving my VA benefits compensation within 60 days after leaving active duty, well it's now august which is 6 months later," said Michelle Smith, Retired Army Sgt. First Class.

Michelle Smith is just one out of more than 500,000 veterans nationwide who are playing the waiting game.

"It forces people to make some really tough decisions that impact their future," said Smith.

Getting veterans the services they earned and deserve is the reason Congressman Tim Walz and Senator Al Franken were in Rochester Friday.

Talking with local veterans on how to speed up the process of receiving VA benefits.

"For us, it's the priority of making every tool available to the VA to make it easier," said Rep. Tim Walz.

Which is exactly what their new legislation aims at doing. The proposed bill requires the VA to award interim benefits to disabled vets whose cases still are being reviewed.

"Let’s pay that claim now and if there's a more complicated one that takes more time to do then let’s keep working on that and pay this, what we use to do it make them wait until we got to the end," said Walz.

It would also allow local doctors to do medical exams that can be used on a claim. Both ideas that Walz and Franken say will help the process go faster.

"If we're going to ask them to do what we ask of them, life limb health, put it all on the line then we better follow through," said Walz.

For Michelle Smith, receiving her benefits as quick as possible is all she's asking for.

"The piece of legislation that they are passing is absolutely wonderful and it's a step in the right direction," said Smith

The lawmakers will now go back to Washington and work to get their colleagues on board to get the bill to committee.