Campaign Promises

Cabinet/Departments -> Veterans Affairs

ItemVeterans Affairs
The Promise: "...will fully fund the VA so it has all the resources it needs to serve the veterans who need it, when they need it."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Fulfilling a Sacred Trust With Our Veterans", 09/09/08.
Status:The FY2010 appropriation for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was $109.6B, $15.3B above the appropriation for FY2009 and $747M above President Obama's budget proposal. The FY2010 appropriation included $56.6B for mandatory VA benefits programs and $53B for discretionary funding purposes, an increase of $5.4B in the discretionary spending amount over FY2009. The final enacted amount for FY2010 was even higher: $126.3B.

For the first time, the VA's FY2010 appropriation included an advance appropriation to ensure uninterrupted funding for medical care for veterans for FY2011 amounting to $48.2B. The final FY2011 enacted budget for the VA was $126.9B, a slight increase over FY2010.

The FY2012 budget proposal for the VA was $132.2B. This amount included $61.9B to cover medical care, research, cemeteries, general administration, technology and constructions plus $70.3B for disabilities, survivors, and education claims. The final appropriated amount for the VA in FY2012 was $128.1B.

For FY2013, President Obama requested $140.3B comprised of $64B in discretionary funds and $76B for mandatory funds mostly for disability compensation and pensions. The FY2013 budget included:
- $52.7B for medical care reflecting $165M above the pre-approved/pre-appropriated amount of $52.5B,
- $1B over five years for a new Veterans Jobs Corps program,
- $1.4B for Veterans homelessness,
- $233M for Veteran vocational rehabilitation and employment,
- $258M for operation and maintenance of 131 national cemeteries,
- $3.3B for information technology.

This promise has been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will also push to quickly build a new, state-of-the-art Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in New Orleans so that the city's veterans can get top-quality care."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Rebuilding the Gulf Coast and Preventing Future Catastrophes", dated 09/11/08.
Status:Ground was broken on 06/25/10 for a new VA medical complex to be built in New Orleans -- an $800M facility scheduled to open in early-CY2014, 10 years after the Hurricane Katrina severely damaged the VA hospital that existed in the downtown medical district.

The 30-acre complex will contain 1.7 million square feet with 300 outpatient exam rooms, 200 hospital rooms, 20 intervention and surgery rooms, an emergency department, a research facility, rehabilitation services and a mental health division. The hospital will employ 2,200 people and will be able to handle 500K outpatient visits annually.

This promise has been fulfilled.
Health CareGrade
The Promise: "Obama will expand "Vet Centers in rural areas so that veterans and their families can get the care they need where they live."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Fulfilling a Sacred Trust With Our Veterans", dated 09/09/08.
Status:The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act signed into law on 10/22/09 included funds for investing in mobile clinics to reach veterans in rural areas.

Further, the FY2010 appropriation for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) included $250M to continue rural health initiatives and an additional $30M to increase the number of Community Based Outpatient Clinics in rural areas, benefitting approximately 41% of eligible veterans.

President Obama's FY2012 budget proposal included an additional $250M to improve access to care in rural and highly isolated areas by veterans and their families. His FY2013 proposal included continuation of the $250M historical funding level to "improve access and quality of care for enrolled veterans residing in rural areas."

Promise fulfilled.
The Promise: "...requiring individual, face-to-face post-deployment mental health screenings."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Fulfilling a Sacred Trust With Our Veterans", dated 09/09/08.
Status:The original requirement to reassess the mental health of all service personnel at 90 and 180 days post-deployment was ordered by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs (ASD(HA)) as a matter of policy on 03/10/05.

On 03/25/09, a bill entitled "Post-Deployment Health Assessment Act of 2009" (S.711) was introduced by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT). On 04/23/09, a similar bill (H.R. 2058) was introduced by Congressman Dennis Rehberg (D-MT). Neither of these bills were signed into law.

However, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (H.R. 2647) signed into law by President Obama on 10/28/09 was successfully amended to provide "person-to-person mental health assessment for each member of the Armed Forces who is deployed in connection with a contingency operation...At a time during the period beginning 90 days after the date of redeployment from the contingency operation and ending 180 days after the date of redeployment..."

The VA's 2010 budget appropriation provided $4.6B ($300M over the 2009 appropriation) for mental health care to treat psychological wounds of returning combat veterans, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

For FY2011, the President's budget proposal for the VA included $5.2B to provide Veterans "the best possible care for Post-Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury, and other mental health conditions..." This amount went up to $5.8B in FY2012 and the President requests $6.2B for this purpose in FY2013.

Face-to-face screenings, designed to help members of the armed forces deal better with stress, also make it easier for them to seek substance abuse treatment, obtain marriage/family counseling, and help prevent suicides.

This promise to our Veterans has been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will establish standards of care for TBI treatment, require pre- and post-deployment screenings and improve case management so that servicemembers get the best possible care."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Fulfilling a Sacred Trust With Our Veterans", dated 09/09/08.
Status:According to Pentagon statistics, more than 244,000 troops have been diagnosed with some form of brain injury since CY2001.

On 05/28/08, the standards for pre-deployment TBI screenings were established by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs (ASD(HA)), directing the armed services to conduct "pre-deployment neurocognitive assessments" on all outgoing service members. The resulting Neurocognitive Assessment Tool (NCAT) program is administered by the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC).

In FY2010, the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) reported significant funding initiatives from which the VA will likely benefit such as (a) $11M for the Centers for Disease Control TBI registries, surveillance, prevention and national public education and awareness, (b) $20M for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Federal TBI State Grant Program, (c) $6M for the HRSA Federal TBI Protection and Advocacy Systems Grant Program, and (d) $13.3M for the NIDRR's TBI Model Systems of Care Program.

On its side, the VA budget request for TBI for FY2010 was $298M, an increase of 16% over FY2009. The final budget appropriation for FY2010 was $281M, $71M above FY2009, for research in a number of areas including mental health, TBI, spinal cord injury, burn injury, polytrauma injuries, and sensory loss.

For FY2011, the VA's request for screening and treatment of TBI and polytrauma was $260.9M, a decrease from the FY2010 budget request attributed to the reduction of combat troops in Iraq during FY2010.

On 03/08/10, the VA issued Directive 2010-012 that sets the standards for the screening and evaluation of possible TBI in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) Veterans. This satisfied the post-deployment screening aspect of this promise.

In seeking the "best possible care," the Tricare Management System for Veterans does not yet recognize Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy (CRT) as a form of treatment for TBI patients despite widespread support from doctors and lawmakers. The effectiveness of CRT was validated by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine (IOM) in a 10/11/11 report entitled "Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy for Traumatic Brain Injury.

But prior to all of these developments, the U.S. Army conducted intensive pre-deployment screenings of three brigades of the 3rd Infantry Division (10K+ personnel). Three control brigades did not receive similar screenings to determine mental fitness for combat in the Iraqi theater. The result: in the screened group, one of 35 developed psychiatric disorders; in the unscreened group, the ratio was one of 8 soldiers. For reference purposes, this study was initiated in CY2007, during the Bush Administration.

The "Traumatic Brain Injury Clinical Standards of Care Directorate" of the Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) has the mission to "develop state of the science clinical standards to maximize recovery and functioning and to provide guidance and support in the implementation of clinical tools for the benefit of all those who sustain traumatic brain injuries In the service of our country." While the promised standards are under development, the DCoE operates a 24/7 Outreach Center that provides a source of information to everyone (not only wounded warriors) on psychological health and TBI issues and resources.

The DoD's Instruction #1300.24, Subject: "Recovery Coordination Program" dated 12/01/09 and other directives issued since the start of the Obama Administration go a long toward improving TBI victims' case management.

While definitive standards are still unavailable for TBI treatment, the availability of pre- and post-deployment screenings, coupled with improved case management practices indicates that tangible progress has been made on promise fulfillment as of mid-CY2015.
The Promise: "As the nation's largest integrated health system, the Veterans Health Administration has already been a national leader in reform, particularly with electronic health records and prevention initiatives...will continue this trend to make the VA a leader of national health care reform so that veterans get the best care possible. This includes efforts to improve electronic records interoperability, expand effectiveness research, promote wellness programs, and instill more accountability for performance and quality improvement initiatives."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Fulfilling a Sacred Trust With Our Veterans", dated 09/09/08.
Status:Cross Reference to Promise Number VA-15, similar in intent but made in a different venue.

On 04/09/09, President Obama announced the creation of a Joint Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) that will improve care and services to transitioning veterans by facilitating the flow of medical records the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Once fully developed, VLER will include both administrative and medical information from the day a new recruit enters military service, throughout that servicemember's career, and after that servicemember retires or separates from active or reserve duty.

A proof of concept VLER prototype and production pilot was executed in the San Diego area during CY2009. On 01/30/10, the DoD and VA joined the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN). They announced on 03/08/10 that they had progressed to testing capabilities to complete data integration implementation, and were building adaptors to communicate through the NHIN with each other and with private providers.

The above capability is helping to drive and establish standards for health information exchange on a national basis.

In so doing, the promise to maintain the VA (with the DoD) as a leader in health care reform has been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...increasing the VA budget to recruit and retain more mental health professionals..."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Fulfilling a Sacred Trust With Our Veterans", dated 09/09/08.
Status:The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) FY2010 appropriation included an increase of $300M over the FY2009 appropriation of $4.3B for "programs addressing the wounded, ill and injured, traumatic brain injury, and psychological health. This includes includes "$1 million to provide education debt relief as a hiring incentive for mental health professionals." The DoD budget for FY2010 included $800M for improving the hiring and retention of psychiatrists and mental health professionals.

For FY2011, the President's budget proposal for the Department of Defense included $669M "to provide care for traumatic brain injury and psychological health" and $250M "for continued support of mental health and traumatic brain injury research". Also in the VA FY2011 budget proposal, the President proposed to invest $5.2B in "specialized care" for post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and other mental health conditions. This number went up to $5.8B in FY2012 and the proposal for FY2013 is $6.2B.

Given the steady increase in the VA's budget since the Obama Administration started in early-CY2009, an action that has permitted the increased hiring of mental health professionals, this promise has been fulfilled.
The Promise: "There will be a longterm need for strengthened specialty care within the VA, including additional polytrauma centers as well as centers of excellence for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), PTSD, vision impairment, prosthetics, spinal cord injury, aging, women's health and other specialized rehabilitative care...he will expand the number of these centers of excellence and invest in specialty care."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Fulfilling a Sacred Trust With Our Veterans", dated 09/09/08.
Status:When President Obama assumed his office, the VA administered four (4) Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers (PRC), one each in Richmond, VA; Tampa, FL; Minneapolis, MN; and Palo Alto, CA, supplemented by 21 Polytrauma Network Sites. These are further supplemented by about 80 Polytrauma Support Clinics at the nation's VA hospitals.

On 09/08/10, the VA awarded a $1.3M pre-construction contract for an $800M facility to replace the Denver VA Medical Center in Aurora, CO. When completed in CY2014, this new hospital will include a 120-bed in-patient facility with a 30-bed spinal cord injury unit. Enhanced telehealth, polytrauma and traumatic brain injury programs will also be included.

A fifth PRC was dedicated on 10/25/11 in San Antonio, TX at a cost of $66M. For FY2013, a $55M mental health building is planned for Seattle, WA and a $33.5M spinal cord injury facility is planned for Dallas, TX.

This promise is being fulfilled.
The Promise: "Launch an innovative supportive services-housing program to prevent at-risk veterans and veteran families from falling into homelessness in the first place."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Fulfilling a Sacred Trust With Our Veterans", dayed 09/09/08.
Status:Obama repeated this promise on 03/16/09 at the Department of Veterans Affairs. It was also addressed in his proposed budget for FY2010.

The VA began a $26M pilot program in FY2010 to prevent homelessness and maintain housing stability for veterans' families. Further, the VA began supportive services in FY2010 for low-income veterans living in permanent housing to help prevent the onset of homelessness.

At the end of CY2011, homeless veterans totaled 67,495, down from 76,000 in CY2010.

For FY2012, the VA's budget included $1.019B to prevent and reduce veteran homelessness, a 17.5% increase over FY2011. The President's request for FY2013 proposes an increase of $333M over the FY2012 level to $1.352B. The $333M is earmarked as $200M for supportive services for Veterans families, $43M for the HUD-VASH program, and $11M for grant and per diem programs.

This promise has been fulfilled.
The Promise: "Expand proven homeless veteran housing vouchers to assist those already on the streets."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Fulfilling a Sacred Trust With Our Veterans", dated 09/09/08.
Status:According to a Veterans Administration (VA) and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) report released in 02/11, 76K veterans were homeless on any given night in CY2009, representing about 12% of all homeless adults nationwide. About 136K veterans spent at least one night in a shelter that year.

According to the VA, there were over 131K homessless veterans as of early-CY2010. Only about 9,800 vouchers were handed out by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in CY2010 to homeless veterans, 200 less than the authorized amount. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans reported that in CY2010, the VA served only 25% of veterans in need -- about 300K heroes.

President Obama's FY2010 VA budget proposal provided funding for the formulation of a pilot program to maintain stable housing for veterans who are at risk of falling into homelessness. Nothing was said in his budget proposal about those who are "already on the streets".

In CY2009 and CY2010, there were approximately 14 bills pending before the House and Senate that could have directly impacting homeless veterans and those at risk of becoming homeless. Three were key to promise fulfillment if passed and signed into law:

S. 1547 - "Zero Tolerance for Veteran Homelessness Act of 2009,
S. 1160 - "The Homes for Heroes Act of 2009", and
S. 1237 - "Homeless Women Veterans and Homeless Veterans With Children Act of 2009."

Nothing happened on these bills beyond being referred to or reported by committees, and they died with the 111th Congress at the end of CY2010.

Numerous bills to benefit homeless veterans were introduced during the 112th Congress. Except for H.R. 3298 which passed the House on 03/27/12, no action beyond committee referrals was taken on any of them and they expired with the 112th Congress at the end of CY2012. These included but were not limited to the following:

H.R. 136 - Would have allowed taxpayers to designate a portion of their income tax payment to provide assistance to homeless veterans.
H.R. 287 and H.R. 3298 - "Homes for Heroes Act of 2011" which would have authorized an annual budget increase to provide 20,000 additional rental vouchers each fiscal year. This bills were reintroduced as H.R. 386 on 01/23/13.
H.R. 806 - "End Veteran Homelessness Act of 2011"
S. 411 and H.R. 1133 - "Helping Our Homeless Veterans Act of 2011"
S. 1060 - "Honoring All Veterans Act of 2011"
S. 1148 - "Veterans Programs Improvement Act of 2011"
H.R. 2559 - "Helping Homeless Heroes Act of 2011"
H.R. 5830 - "Housing for Heroes Act"

In FY2011, the VA and HUD spent $46.2M on a voucher program and the VA initiated a $160M grant program to assist veterans and their families who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The annual 10,000 vouchers were bumped up by 7,700 vouchers in FY2011, a one-time occurrence.

As of 01/12, according to Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) records, approximately 62,619 veterans did not have a nighttime roof over their heads. This represented 14% of the homeless adult population, up from 12% in FY2009. As of 01/13, the number of homeless veterans had reportedly gone down to about 57,850. This statistic is not expected to improve significantly as pullouts from Iraq have been completed and troops are scheduled to vacate Afghanistan by end-CY2014.

The Obama Administration's FY2014 budget request for new HUD-VA Supporting Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers amounted to about $75M, but the quantity of new vouchers remains unchanged from the FY2008 baseline: 10,000. Nonetheless, the Obama Administration's goal was to reduce the number of homeless veterans to 35,000 in FY2013. That didn't happen.

The Obama Administration's ultimate goal, including VA participation in a "100,000 Homes" collaborative effort with community organizations, is to eliminate all veteran homelessness by CY2015.

While initial progress has been made toward promise fulfillment to eliminate veteran homelessness, the Obama Administration failed to significantly expand the veteran voucher system beyond the estimated 10,000 vouchers authorized each year from FY2009 through FY2014 with approximately 48,400 vouchers awarded to public housing agencies nationwide as of end-FY2013.

This promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "Will put additional resources into enforcement and investigation in order to crack down on employers who are not following the letter and spirit of the law in regards to military reservists."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Fulfilling a Sacred Trust With Our Veterans" dated 09/09/08.
Status:The "Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act" (USERRA) has existed since CY1994. This law has re-hiring enforcement mechanisms in place to protect honorably discharged reservists returning from active duty. This law requires an amendment to ensure that returning reservists are not subjected to discrimination by former employers.

In an effort to mitigate this situation, Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) introduced the "Help Veterans Return to Work Act" (H.R. 3860) on 02/01/12. This bill did not progress beyond referral to the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

On 07/19/12, President Obama issued a memorandum with the subject "Ensuring the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) Protections." While this memorandum served to establish a "USERRA Employment Protection Working Group," it did not allocate additional resources to enforce and investigate employer discrimination against reservists returning from active duty. Rather, it simply directed participating agencies to "allocate sufficient resources to effectively implement the requirements of this memorandum, subject to the availability of appropriations."

On 09/28/16, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the "Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Improvement Act of 2016" (S. 3445) to improve the enforcement of employment and reemployment rights of members of the uniformed services. This bill expired without action at the end of CY2016 with the 114th Congress.

This promise was not fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will create a new 'Green Vet Initiative' that will have two missions: first it will offer counseling and job placement to help veterans gain the skills to enter this rapidly growing field; second, it will work with industry partners to create career pathways and educational programs."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "New Energy for America" dated 09/06/08.
Status:As of 10/11, the jobless rate among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans grew to 12.1% according to Department of Labor statistics, 3% higher than the national average of 9.1% for that month (see table on Home Page). This 12.1% veteran unemployment rate was up from 10% in 11/10, which was up from 8.4% in 07/10 and up from 7.7% in 07/09. The primary reason is that few of the skills acquired by our warfighters were directly transferable to the civilian sector. This percentage will only worsen as US troops are pulled from Iraq by end-CY2011 and Afghanistan by end-CY2014.

Nonetheless, under the Veterans Workforce Investment Program, $7M was allocated to create 3,000 jobs for veterans in the green sector.

The Department of Labor had a separate $100M initiative, created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, that funds green training for veterans.

In the private sector, "Green Collar Vets," headquartered in Mansfield, TX, "provides online assistance to veterans in selecting and securing their next career in the rapidly-growing, multi-faceted green industries." They can be reached at "".

On 08/05/11, President Obama announced the creation of a new career readiness training proposal, dubbed a "reverse boot camp," to assist troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to better transition to the civilian workforce. In his announcement, President Obama also proposed tax credit incentives for companies to hire unemployed and disabled veterans and returning service men and women at a cost of approximately $120M over two years. Legislation supporting these initiatives was signed into law on 08/03/11 as the "Restoring GI Bill Fairness Act of 2011" (H.R. 1383) sponsored by Representative Jeff Miller (R-FL).

The "3% Withholding Repeal and Job Creation Act" (H.R. 674) was introduced by Congressman Walter Herger (R-CA) on 02/11/11. Title II of H.R. 674 passed by the Senate on 11/10/11 in a rare 95-0 vote (Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) voted "Present" and four senators did not vote) is entitled "VOW to Hire Heroes." Subtitle A of Title II, entitled "Retraining Veterans" provides for the retraining of 45K veterans during FY2012 and 54K veterans during the period 10/01/12 through 03/31/14. Funding for this program will come from amounts either appropriated to or otherwise made available to the Department of Veterans Affairs for the payment of veteran readjustment benefits. Eligible veterans are estimated to be approximately 20 times the numbers cited above.

Section 261 of Title II, entitled "Returning Heroes and Wounded Warriors Work Opportunity Tax Credits" grants tax credits of up to $5,600 for employers hiring veterans who have been unemployed for at least six months; grants employers a $2,400 credit for hiring veterans unemployed for more than four weeks; grants tax credits of up to $9,600 for hiring disabled veterans who have been seeking work for more than six months; provides benefits to aging veterans for continued education; provides an additional year of help for job-hunting disabled vets; and allows warfighters to apply for jobs before being discharged. Close scrutiny of this bill did not reveal any connection to "green job" related initiatives.

H.R. 674 was signed into law by President Obama on 11/21/11.

While no formal federal level "Green Vet Initiative" has been created as promised, the programs initiated and the funds allocated to date for satisfying the two stated missions constitute promise fulfillment, as does the new tax credit incentives for industry to hire veterans. For example, the Denver-based non-profit organization "Veterans Green Job" has initiated a new "Veterans Green Force" recruitment and placement program that aims to place 300 veterans in "green" jobs by mid-CY2013.

This promise has been fulfilled.
Veterans' BenefitsGrade
The Promise: "To reduce the Veterans Benefits Administration claims backlog, "Obama will hire additional claims workers and convene our nation's leading veterans groups, employees and managers to develop an updated training and management model..."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Fulfilling a Sacred Trust With Our Veterans" dated 09/09/08.
Status:As of 06/09, the VA had over 720,000 claims pending and over 170,000 appeals pending. A VA Inspector General report dated 09/23/09 lays the blame on claims processing delays on inadequate VA workload management practices, not on inadequate claims processing personnel resources.

The FY2010 Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act signed into law on 10/22/09 included resources to continue moving toward President Obama's goal of reforming the benefits claims process, increasing funds for this purpose from $1.4B in FY2009 to $1.8B in FY2010. This translated into the VA's ability to hire 1,200 new claims processors in FY2010, bringing that workforce to 14,550 personnel.

As of end-CY2010, the number of claims in pending status at the VA grew by 31% since 10/01/10, the start of the fiscal year. This increase was attributed in part to the inclusion of retroactive claims provisions for Vietnam-era service members exposed to Agent Orange, as well as to a 34% increase in the number of claims in pending status for more than 125 days.

For FY2011, Congress approved a Continuing Resolution (H.R. 3082) on 12/21/10 that provides an additional $460M to the VA Department to avoid laying off people hired to address the claims backlog while the 112th Congress negotiated the FY2011 Defense and VA budgets.

Despite the above positive actions, the number of claims pending action went from 448,000 in 04/10 to 756,000 in 04/11. Claims exceeding 125 days processing time went up from 200,000 in 04/10 to 450,000 in 04/11, with processing time estimated at 180 days and expected to surpass 240 days before end-CY2011.

The objective of this promise was to reduce the VA claims backlog by hiring additional claims processors. While additional workers were added to the VA payroll, the backlog was not reduced -- it worsened. To mitigate this situation, the President's FY2012 budget proposal included $2.019B (a 19.5% increase over FY2010) to improve the processing of an estimated 1.27M claims through increased staff and improvements in the VA's business processes and information technology. The FY2012 budget proposal also included $148M for the implementation of a paperless claims processing system by end-CY2012. This new system should have reduced the claims processing time to less than 125 days for all veterans.

Despite processing over 1M claims in CY2010 and CY2011, the number of claims in progress at end-CY2012 was estimated to be 897,566, 67.6% or 606,754 of which were over 125 days old.

The backlog of claims peaked in 03/13 with 611,000 stuck in processing for over 125 days. A year later, that number had gone down to 344,000, an indicator that processing improvements are taking hold.

The claims processing system is projected to become increasingly strained by end-CY2014 as veterans from Afghanistan separate from active service, many of whom have multiple medical conditions. The claims backlog is further exacerbated by the aging of Vietnam-era veterans who are filing for medical benefits and previously unavailable benefits related to Agent Orange exposure. To mitigate this situation, President Obama requested $2.5 billion, an increase of $28 million over FY2014, in his FY2015 budget request for veteran benefits processing.

With the hiring of additional claims processors coupled with mandatory overtime, the veterans claims backlog was significantly reduced as of mid-CY2015. On 06/30/15, the number of initial claims waiting in excess of 125 days for processing was estimated at 194,000. By 12/31/16, that number reportedly went down to 70,000. However, the backlog of claim appeals as of end-CY2016 stood at 470,000.

It took a while and if the VA's numbers are credible, promise fulfillment has been attained to "reduce" the initial claims backlog.
The Promise: "Obama will sign an executive order "ending the unfair ban on healthcare enrollment of certain groups of veterans, including 'Priority 8' veterans who often earn modest incomes."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Fulfilling a Sacred Trust With Our Veterans" dated 09/09/08.
Status:Priority 8 veterans are those who either have no service-connected disability or a 0% disability rating, with incomes above specified thresholds based on family size. For the VA's Financial Test Year 2010, income thresholds for eligibility for free VA health care are $29,402 for a veteran with no dependents to $41,344 for a veteran with 4 dependents (amount increased by $2,020 for each additional dependent).

Under President Bush, Congress authorized the expenditure of $375M to re-enroll some Priority 8 veterans, about 10% of the total number of eligible veterans.

When President Obama signed the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act on 10/22/09, he acknowledged that "for 500,000 Priority 8 veterans, we're restoring VA health care coverage". According to the VA, that number was closer to 265,000 at that time.

Although this promise was for President Obama to sign an executive order on this matter, which he failed to do, by signing the above Act, he essentially delivered on this promise.

This promise has been fulfilled.
The Promise: "As president, Obama will meet early in the budgeting process each year with congressional leaders and the nation's leading Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) to ensure the VA budget is always given must-pass status."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Fulfilling a Sacred Trust With Our Veterans" dated 09/09/08.
Status:The House passed H.R. 1016, the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009, on 10/08/09 by a vote of 419-1. The measure was then approved by the Senate on 10/13/09. President Obama signed this legislation into law on 10/22/09.

Starting in FY2011, the above Act requires the President to submit a budget request for the VA's medical-care accounts for the fiscal year after the one for which the budget is submitted.

The legislation also requires the VA to provide an annual report to Congress by 07/31 of each year, projecting cost estimates in advance of the current year's budget requirements.

This promise has been fulfilled.
The Promise: "Obama will transform the paper benefit claims process to an electronic system that will be interoperable with the VA's health network as well as military records"
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Fulfilling a Sacred Trust With Our Veterans" date 09/09/08
Status:Cross Reference to Promise Number VA-6.

The VA's 2010 budget included $3.3B to develop electronic health care records, paperless claims systems, and seamless integration of medical and service records with DoD. This level of funding was considered sufficient to get the promised transformation started and implemented.

For FY2011, the actual budget authorization for VA Information Technology (IT) was $2.994B.

Part of the President's FY2012 request for $2.019B for claims processing was for information technology enhancements. Further, of the enacted $3.161B for the VA's FY2012 discretionary funding for information technology, $70M was for the development and implementation of a Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) initiative and $148M for a paperless claims processing system.

For FY2013, the President's request for VA IT is $3.327B, $128M of which is specifically for the continued development and implementation of a paperless claims system under the Veterans Benefits Management System.

This promise has been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...would also extend the window for new veterans to enroll in the VA from two to five years."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Fulfilling a Sacred Trust With Our Veterans", Kansas City, 08/20/07.
Status:H.R. 1460 was introduced by Congressman William Owens (D-NY) on 04/08/11 to provide for automatic enrollment of veterans returning from combat zones into the VA medical system. This bill and others like it such as the "Providing Real Outreach (PRO) for Veterans Act" (S. 1080) have not gotten beyond initial committee review as of mid-CY2012.

The above bills would grant veterans returning from Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) or already returned from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) immediate enrollment in the VA if the terms of their discharge permit.

However, not all service members got to serve in Iraq or are expected to serve in Afghanistan before the USA pulls out of that country by end-CY2014. These veterans are assigned to a lower priority group for receipt of VA health care benefits, with those able to afford their own health care placed at the lowest end of the priority scale.

The interpretation of this promise is that all "new veterans" would be granted a 5-year window to enroll for VA benefits, not only those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, those who enrolled prior to the expiration of the enhanced enrollment window on 01/27/11, or those who have service connected disabilities or low incomes.

This promise has not been fulfilled.
Veterans Affairs GPA0.81