Sen. Richard delivered the weekly Republican address on Saturday. As the most senior Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, the senator from Winston-Salem focused on the backlog of disability claims veterans still face. (Audio here. And links to audio and video of the address here.)
“Thankfully, over the past five years, Congress has authorized over $600 billion to VA in robust and sustained increases of government funding for veterans’ programs designed to be part of a more responsive federal support for veterans outreach and care,” Burr said in the address.
“This unprecedented level of support has been especially evident in the area of veterans’ benefits, specifically disability payments,” he said, but added: “The surge in financial support has not been matched with an equivalent surge in responsiveness from the Veterans’ Administration.”
Burr said that “incremental progress” has been made to reduce a “now infamous” backlog of claims that existed last year. There are nearly 700,000 veterans and their families “waiting for answers,” Burr said. Claims often have errors, and so veterans have to file appeals.
“More than a quarter million appeals are waiting to be resolved and the time it takes VA to act on appeals is worsening,” Burr said. “As the nation’s military stands down from its war footing, veterans should not have to wage another battle here at home, this time against government bureaucracy.”
Burr said that some veterans also have to wait too long for mental health counseling and other health services. The VA is taking steps to improve its staffing and health care delivery, “but more remains to be done,” North Carolina’s Republican senator said.
He also said that North Carolina was trying a new approach to resolving the problem of homelessness among veterans.
“We’re taking private capital and motivated individuals – veterans themselves – and connecting them with government resources at HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), in the state, and at the local level, to rehabilitate state facilities and provide homeless veterans with not only a place to stay, but a place where they can learn -- particularly the skills that allow them to enter the workforce, or get them the help they really need,” Burr told the national audience in the weekly Republican address.
“Rather than a top-down, government-centered approach, it’s citizen-centered and it’s veteran focused. I’ve introduced legislation to continue to force Washington to change, and to provide real solutions for the needs of our veterans population,” Burr said.
“Working together, I know we can ensure that history will say we kept our promise,” Burr said in conclusion. “Thanks for listening. God bless all the men and women who have served and continue to serve our great country and God bless this great nation."