Helping Veterans with the VA
Sen. Franken's work with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on retroactive benefits has resulted in faster processing times and an improved "Fast Track" system.
Last year the VA issued its ruling for implementing Secretary Shineski's decision to recognize Agent Orange's link to Parkinson's disease, ischemic heart diseases, and B-cell leukemia. The intended effect of this decision was to recognize these diseases as service connected, thus making veterans who suffer from these conditions and their families eligible for a range of benefits.
However, the system didn't work the way it was intended. And, after talking to a number of Minnesota veterans, Sen. Franken uncovered several several systematic problems that prevented veterans from receiving their benefits. For example, Vietnam veterans who were eligible for retroactive benefits and who had submitted their claims to special processing centers were encountering lengthy processing delays and, when they had asked, had gotten no information in response from VA. Additionally, VA created confusion among Vietnam veterans and their families about which veterans should be using VA's new "Fast Track" claims processing system for the new presumptive conditions.
Based on the feedback from Minnesota veterans, Sen. Franken wrote to VA Secretary Shineski in March urging him to make the necessary improvements. And last week, the VA announced that it was updating its process and improving its services, significantly improveing how it delivers benefits to Vietnam veterans suffering from exposure to Agent Orange.
As a result of Sen. Franken's work on this issue, Minnesota Veterans who are eligible for retroactive benefits started having their cases processed more quickly.