U.S. Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas introduced legislation Thursday to reduce the backlog of pending Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability claims by expanding eligibility for health care providers who are allowed to conduct the required medical exam for veterans applying for benefits.
Veterans are required to complete a compensation and pension (C&P) exam to verify their medical condition and eligibility when applying for VA benefits. The backlog has more than tripled since November 2019, growing to 197,000 veterans nationwide. In Arkansas, more than 1,500 veterans are waiting for a C&P exam.
The Boozman bill would allow physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, audiologists or psychologists to perform C&P exams.
“We must make the process of filing disability claims more efficient so our veterans receive the benefits they have earned. While Congress has approved the expansion of benefits, it’s clear the framework to support the additional claims is not meeting the demand. By allowing additional health care personnel to conduct C&P exams, we can ensure veterans get the attention they deserve in a more timely manner,” Boozman said.
The VA paused in-person C&P exams in early April because of the coronavirus. Exams recently resumed at several VA facilities around the country including the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System.
During a Senate VA Committee hearing in early June, Boozman pressed VA officials about their plan to reduce the backlog. Department leaders requested flexibility to allow more medical personnel to conduct the exams.
Companion legislation was introduced last month in the House of Representatives by Congressman Mike Bost (R-IL).
“For many veterans living in rural areas, it can often be difficult to travel to faraway VA facilities or hospitals to get a disability exam, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made it more complicated,” Bost said. “By expanding the number of providers who can conduct disability exams, we can better ensure that our veterans can get an exam they need close to home and apply for disability benefits even quicker.”