By JIM VINES
The Veterans Administration announced, along with the Social Security Administration and Internal Revenue Service, that it is cutting the red tape for veterans by eliminating the need for veterans to complete an annual Eligibility Verification Report ( EVR ). The VA will implement a new process for confirming eligibility for benefits, and staff that had been responsible for processing the old form will instead focus on eliminating the compensation claims backlog.
Historically, beneficiaries have been required to complete an EVR each year to ensure their pension benefits continued. Under the new initiative, the VA will work with the IRS and the SSA to verify continued eligibility for pension benefits. By working together this will help ensure that veterans receive the benefits they rightfully deserve without delays.
The VA estimates it would have sent nearly 150,000 EVRs to beneficiaries in January 2013. Eliminating these annual reports reduces the burdens on veterans, their families, and survivors because they will no longer have to return these routine reports to the VA each year in order to avoid suspension of benefits. It also allows the VA to redirect more than 100 employees who usually process EVRs to work on eliminating the claims backlog. With an already instituted process that enables wounded warriors to quickly access Social Security disability benefits, the VA, working with the SSA and IRS, will make it much easier for qualified veterans to maintain their VA benefits from year to year.
All beneficiaries currently receiving VA pension benefits will receive a letter from the VA explaining these changes and providing instructions on how to continue to submit their unreimbursed medical expenses. More information is available at www.benefits.va.gov/pensions.
American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans will soon have increased access to health care services closer to home following a recent Department of Veterans Affairs and Indian Health Service ( IHS ) joint national agreement.
As a result of this national agreement, the VA in now able to reimburse the IHS for direct care services provided to eligible American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans. While the national agreement applies only to the VA and IHS, it will inform agreements negotiated between the VA and tribal American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans under this agreement. The VA and IHS have worked long and hard to come to an equitable agreement that would ensure access to quality health care for our Nation's heroes living in tribal communities.
This agreement between the two agencies is consistent with the VA's continued efforts to increase access to care for veterans. To view the national agreement, go to www.va.gov and to find out additional information about American Indian and Alaska Native Veteran programs, visit www.va.gov/tribalgovernment .
The New Year is upon us. Let's enjoy the celebration, being mindful of our troops throughout the world and pause a moment for those veterans who have gone before us. Be safe and speak to you again next week.