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Legion pushes VA to continue progress on claims

Mar. 26, 2014 - 03:29PM   |  
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The American Legion’s national commander is happy with work Veterans Affairs Department officials have done on their disability claims and veteran outreach goals.

Now he wants to make sure they keep up that progress.

“We want to make sure they’re staying on schedule,” said Dan Dellinger, who has led the organization since last summer. “As soon as you assume things are fine, there’s a tendency to let problems creep back in. So, we need to keep up the pressure.”

Several hundred members of the Legion are in Washington, D.C., this week to push their annual legislative agenda to lawmakers. It includes passing advance appropriations for all VA programs, ending sequestration, blocking new retiree Tricare fees and fixing the ongoing claims backlog problem.

Dellinger testified about those priorities before Congress on Wednesday, but beforehand said the overarching theme of the push is accountability.

Legion members have been pleased with the efforts of VA officials in recent years, he said. But they also worry that with the end of the wars overseas, veterans and military issues will receive less attention in years to come.

Adding to that concern are recent efforts by Congress and the Pentagon to pull back on personnel costs, Dellinger said.

In recent weeks, nearly every major veterans group has testified before Congress on the dangers of trimming military pay and benefits too far, and over their dissatisfaction that military retirement cost-of-living increases were included in a budget balancing measure late last year. Congress reversed that cut in February.

Dellinger also said that the Legion remains optimistic that the disability claims backlog can be zeroed out by the end of 2015, as promised by VA officials. But Legion officials remain concerned about accuracy issues with completing the claims, noting their own reviews have found higher error rates than the department has publicly stated.

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