Having Trouble With The VA? You Might Consider Calling Congress

Support
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.

The San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chris Roys)

The Navy is investigating reports that a female Marine discovered a hidden camera in one of the women's restrooms aboard the USS Arlington, an amphibious transport dock that's currently on at port in Greece, NBC News originally reported.

Read More Show Less
The sun sets behind a C-17 Globemaster III at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, as Soldiers wait in line to board Nov. 17, 2008. (Air Force/Tech Sgt. Erik Gudmundson)

Today, an American service member died in a "non-combat incident" in Ninawa Province, Iraq according to a statement by Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State.

Read More Show Less

First came the explosion. Then, the cover-up.

"I held one [sailor] in my hands as he passed. He died in my arms."

news
USS Iowa on April 19, 1989. (Wikipedia Commons)

It's been 30 years since an explosion inside the number two gun turret on the USS Iowa killed 47 American sailors, but for Mike Carr, it still feels like yesterday.

"I knew all 47 guys inside that turret because as part of the ship's policy we had rotated between all three turrets," Carr, who served as a gunner's mate in the Iowa's aft 16-inch turret, told Task & Purpose. "We all knew each other rather intimately."

On April 19, 1989, the day of the blast, the ship was preparing for live-fire training at Vieques, Puerto Rico Naval Training Range.

Carr was wearing headphones that allowed him to hear what the crews in the other turrets were saying.

"At 10 minutes to 10 a.m., somebody came over the phones and said, 'We're having a problem, Turret 2, center gun,'" Carr recalled. "Then approximately two minutes later, I recognized Senior Chief [Reginald] Ziegler, who was the chief in charge of Turret 2, yell into the phones: 'Fire, fire, fire! Fire in center gun, turret 2. Trying to contain it.'"

Then came the blast, which was so strong that it ripped the headphones right off Carr's head.

Read More Show Less

Barracks to business: Hiring veterans has never been easier

Organizations offer training, certifications, networking to connect veterans, businesses

career
Jason Sutton

As a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a newly minted second lieutenant, I felt well-prepared to tackle the challenges facing a junior field artillery officer in the U.S. Army. When the time came to leave the Army, however, I was much less prepared to make the transition into the yet-unknown civilian sector.

One of the primary issues facing veterans after we transition is that we lack the same sense of purpose and mission that we had with our military careers. Today, more than ever, our service members volunteer to put themselves in harm's way. They are defending our freedom across the globe and should be recognized as our country's true heroes. It's critical that employers educate veterans and provide viable options so we can make informed decisions about the rest of our lives.

Read More Show Less
Maj. Gen. David Furness

The two-star general in charge of the roughly 15,000-strong 2nd Marine Division has turned micromanagement into an art form with a new policy letter ordering his Marines and sailors to cut their hair, shave their faces, and adhere to a daily schedule that he has prescribed.

In his "Policy Letter 5-19," Maj. Gen. David Furness lamented that he has noticed "a significant decline in the basic discipline" of troops he's come in contact with in the division area, which has led him to "FIX IT immediately," instead of relying on the thousands of commissioned and non-commissioned officers below him to carry out his orders.

Read More Show Less