Having Trouble With The VA? You Might Consider Calling Congress

Support
The interior of the United States Capitol rotunda taken from behind the statue of George Washington.
Photo via Matt Wade/Wikimedia Commons

My congressional office recently wrapped up a case for a World War II veteran who saw his delayed appeal approved shortly after contacting me, generating a substantial new monthly payment and back pay of over $32,000. My constituent knew something that I want all of America’s valued veterans to know: They can and should contact their congressional representatives for assistance navigating challenges with the Department of Veterans Affairs and receiving the benefits they earned through their service and sacrifice.


While your representative might not serve on the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, all members of Congress employ staff who serve as liaisons between veterans and the VA. When veterans experience trouble with claims or issues involving VA benefits or health care, these designated caseworkers work to ensure that each case receives full and fair consideration based on VA policies. Caseworkers are empowered to place inquiries and request that cases be noted with “congressional interest” on behalf of the elected representatives for whom they serve.

Contacting a congressional representative can also produce a quicker response than a standard inquiry to a public VA point of contact. After a veteran submits pertinent documents and a signed privacy release form, the caseworker contacts a VA representative dedicated to fielding congressional requests. The VA representative acknowledges the inquiry, researches the case, and generates a thorough response, which the caseworker then relays to the veteran. Through inquiries, caseworkers are often able to obtain status updates, answer questions, determine reasons claims were denied, communicate any issues needing correction, and convey the next steps based on the responses.

While not all inquiries can produce results veterans seek, connecting with a congressional office regarding concerns with the VA can help identify common challenges and draw attention to areas in need of legislative action.

Contacting the VA with the support of a congressional office can result in debt waivers, expedited benefits decisions and record requests, bill payments, benefit adjustments, disability percentage increases, resolution of Veterans Choice Program concerns, and many more favorable outcomes in accordance with VA policy. Caseworkers may pass along a constituent’s request for expedited processing due to a veteran’s advanced age, terminal illness, or financial hardship. In some cases, placing a congressional inquiry regarding a disappointing experience can elicit a timely explanation and apology from VA leadership.

It’s important to know that due to strict congressional ethics rules and the constitutional separation of powers, congressional offices cannot place undue influence on the VA to rule in favor of constituents or overrule decisions determined in line with policy. Caseworkers also cannot assist in preparing VA paperwork, provide legal advice, or intervene in matters involving courts. In many cases, however, caseworkers can point veterans toward helpful resources such as veterans service organizations or county resources available to assist.  

Assisting veterans in correcting wrongs with the VA is one of the most important functions of Congress. At the same time, I share veterans’ frustration when policy is not on their side. While not all inquiries can produce results veterans seek, connecting with a congressional office regarding concerns with the VA can help identify common challenges and draw attention to areas in need of legislative action. As a member of Congress, I monitor this essential feedback closely and keep it in mind as I consider legislative proposals to improve the VA. Therefore, it is critical for veterans to communicate these issues so Congress can not only assist with individual cases, but also work to implement the best policies that fulfill our nation’s commitment.  

I encourage veterans across the country to connect with their elected congressional representatives, regardless of political party affiliation, if problems arise with the VA. Veterans may conduct a search using their home address to connect with caseworkers in their representatives’ House or Senate offices.

Rep. Susan Davis represents California’s 53rd Congressional District. She a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Joshua Yabut/Twitter

The soldier who was arrested for taking an armored personnel carrier on a slow-speed police chase through Virginia has been found not guilty by reason of insanity on two charges, according to The Richmond-Times Dispatch.

Joshua Phillip Yabut, 30, entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle — in this case, a 12-ton APC taken from Fort Pickett in June 2018 — and violating the terms of his bond, which stemmed from a trip to Iraq he took in March 2019 (which was not a military deployment).

Read More Show Less
ISIS in Afghanistan (Twitter)

In the aftermath of the ISIS suicide bombing at a wedding reception on in Afghanistan that left 63 people dead on Saturday night, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani marked the nation's 100th independence celebration with a solemn vow to "eliminate" the terror group's strongholds across the country.

"We will take revenge for every civilian drop of blood," Ghani declared. "Our struggle will continue against (ISIS), we will take revenge and will root them out."

That might prove difficult. Six month after President Donald Trump declared victory over the ISIS "caliphate" in Iraq and Syria, the terror group continues to mount a bloody comeback across the Middle East — and Afghanistan is no exception.

Read More Show Less
30th Armored Brigade Combat Team Bradley Fighting Vehicle scans for its moment of opportunity to attack opposing forces in Ujen Military Training Village at the National Training Center on Ft. Irwin, CA July 14, 2019 as part of Operation Hickory Sting. (U.S. Army/Spc. Brianna Lawrence)

A career Fort Worth defense contractor who spent time in prison for lying to the government is in trouble again for similar conduct, which investigators say could have compromised troop safety and led to the disclosure of U.S. technology secrets to foreign governments.

Ross Hyde, 63, has been charged in federal court with making false claims about the type of aluminum he provided under a contract for aircraft landing gear, court records show. He faces up to five years in prison, if convicted.

Hyde, a machinist, has said in court documents that he's worked in the industry all his life. His latest company, Vista Machining Co., has supplied the Pentagon with parts for tanks, aircraft and other military equipment — mostly hardware and machined metals — since 2008. But inspectors said many of his products were cheap replacements, some illegally obtained from China, which he tried to hide from the government.

Read More Show Less
This photo taken on Oct. 7, 2018, shows a billboard that reads "The State Central Navy Testing Range" near residential buildings in the village of Nyonoksa, northwestern Russia. The Aug. 8, 2019, explosion of a rocket engine at the Russian navy's testing range just outside Nyonoksa led to a brief spike in radiation levels and raised new questions about prospective Russian weapons. (AP Photo/Sergei Yakovlev)

It's been more than a week since a mysterious Russian nuclear accident roughly 600 miles north of Moscow and only the Kremlin and those killed know what happened.

What is known is something exploded on Aug. 8 at a naval weapons testing range near the village of Nyonoksa. The Russian government's official account of the accident has changed several times since then, but the country's weather agency recently confirmed that radiation levels jumped to 16 times greater than normal after the blast.

U.S. media outlets have reported that a nuclear-powered cruise missile named the SSX-C-9 Skyfall likely exploded during testing. President Donald Trump appeared to confirm as much when he tweeted on Aug. 12 that the United States had gleaned useful information from "the failed missile explosion in Russia."

Read More Show Less

Sesame Street is launching a new initiative geared toward military caregivers that's designed to help children understand, cope with, and ask questions about their parent's military service.

Read More Show Less