February 12, 2016

Hirono Measure To Improve Veterans Services Advances

WASHINGTON, D.C.– The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved legislation authored by Senator Mazie K. Hirono that streamlines the process for families of veterans to receive survivors benefits. The Veterans’ Survivors Claims Processing Automation Act was introduced by Senator Hirono in the Senate and identical legislation was introduced in the House by Representative Raul Ruiz (D-CA). The bill was also approved by the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee in December 2015. House passage moves the bill one step closer to being signed into law.

“Our veterans and their families shouldn’t have to worry about the often lengthy and cumbersome claims process for survivors benefits, particularly when they have just lost a loved one,” said Senator Hirono. “I will continue to work to see this measure signed into law and thank Representative Ruiz for joining me in seeing this legislation through the House.”

“These two bills vastly improve the burdensome and time-consuming benefit claims process that many disabled veterans and their surviving families must face in order to secure the benefits they need and deserve. The solutions offered in these bills simplify and improve the benefits process,” said Representative Ruiz. “The issues facing our nation’s heroes are pressing, and these bills are a pragmatic, commonsense solution that will get them the benefits owed to them. I’m honored to join Senator Hirono in serving our nation’s veterans."

The Veterans’ Survivors Claims Process Automation Act eliminates the need for survivors or spouses of deceased or totally and permanently disabled veterans to file a formal claim before the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) processes and pays claims for survivors benefits. Currently, survivors or spouses of veterans have to file a formal claim and go through an often lengthy process in order to receive VA survivors benefits.

The Hirono-Ruiz measure would give the VA authority to pay a survivors claim without a formal application when sufficient evidence is already on record or is obtained through other federal agencies or representatives of the survivor. The authority would allow automation of the following benefit categories: VA burial/funeral benefits, VA dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC), VA Survivors Pension, and VA payment of certain accrued benefits upon death of a beneficiary to survivors.

The bill has broad support from VA, the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America, AMVETS, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and American Federation of Government Employees.