Campaign Promises

Cabinet/Departments -> Veterans Affairs -> Veterans' Benefits


ItemVeterans Affairs
Veterans' BenefitsGrade
VA-13
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.
Source: http://obama.3cdn.net/cc58c930c81a543386_a0m6b5dgf.pdf
Status:As of 06/09, the VA had over 720,000 claims pending. A VA Inspector General report dated 09/23/09 laid the blame for 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 by President Obama included resources to continue moving toward his goal of reforming the benefits claims process, increasing funds for that 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.

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.

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 were taking hold.

The claims processing system became increasingly strained by end-CY2014 as veterans from Afghanistan separated from active service, many of whom had multiple medical conditions. The claims backlog was further exacerbated by the aging of Vietnam-era veterans who were filing for medical benefits and previously unavailable benefits related to Agent Orange exposure. To mitigate that 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. 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 about 70,000.

The backlog of VA claims was significantly reduced during President Obama's two terms in office.

This promise was fulfilled.
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VA-14
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.
Source: http://obama.3cdn.net/cc58c930c81a543386_a0m6b5dgf.pdf
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 Income Year 2016, income thresholds for eligibility for free VA health care were $32,074 for a veteran with no dependents to $44,104 for a veteran with four dependents (an amount increased by $2,205 for each additional dependent over four).

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, the correct number of Priority 8 veterans was closer to 265,000 at the time the law was signed.

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 was fulfilled.
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VA-15
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.
Source: http://obama.3cdn.net/cc58c930c81a543386_a0m6b5dgf.pdf
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 was fulfilled.
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VA-16
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
Source: http://obama.3cdn.net/cc58c930c81a543386_a0m6b5dgf.pdf
Status: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 was $3.327B, $128M of which was specifically for the continued development and implementation of a paperless claims system under the Veterans Benefits Management System.

This promise was fulfilled.
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VA-17
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.
Source: http://obama.3cdn.net/cc58c930c81a543386_a0m6b5dgf.pdf
Status:Veterans, including "new" veterans, who served in a theater of operations after 11/11/98 are eligible for an extended period of eligibility for health care for five years after their discharge.

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) introduced during the 112th Congress (CY2011-13) did not get beyond initial committee reviews. These bills would have granted veterans returning from combat tours in Iraq or Afghanistan automatic enrollment in the VA if the terms of their discharge permitted.

However, not all service members got to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan by end-CY2016. Such veterans were 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.

According to a VA representative responding to a telephonic inquiry (1-877-222-VETS), an otherwise qualified "new veteran" can enroll for VA health care benefits at any time and is not limited to two or five years after discharge.

This promise was fulfilled.
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