Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09) announced that the House Appropriations Committee included his recommendations on disability claims processing by the Veterans Administration, an innovative dog training program, and changes to mental health care rules in this year’s Military Construction and Veterans Affairs funding bill.
Rep. McNerney’s recommendations stated that the Board of Veterans Appeals should consider hiring additional staff to address the growing backlog in appeals claims. The BVA must also report back to Congress each year on the steps it is taking to reduce that backlog.
“While the VA has made some progress in addressing these unacceptable delays, the appeals process is still taking far too long,” said Rep. McNerney. “My hope is that these requirements will mean each veteran will get a decision faster on his or her appeal. And the VA must show those of us here in Congress the concrete steps they are taking to make that happen.”
The Congressman’s recommendations could also make it easier for veterans to partner with service dogs to assist them with vision, hearing, and mobility impairments. The VA would be able to work with nonprofits who match up dogs with service members, including an innovative program to adopt shelter dogs.
“We know that working with service dogs improves quality of life for our veterans and has a positive impact on their medical outcomes,” said Rep. McNerney. “By partnering with local nonprofits and animal shelters we can provide even more veterans with this benefit and help some dogs find a new home.”
Congressman McNerney also asked the Appropriations Committee to expand the pool of mental health professionals that can serve veterans, by allowing more certified therapists to practice in VA clinics.
Rep. McNerney gathered the support of many of his House colleagues and wrote a letter to House Appropriators asking for these inclusions in the legislation.