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Monday, October 28, 2013 - 7:05pm
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congress passed a bill Monday evening that could process veterans' benefits claims more quickly.
House Resolution 2189 includes his authored bill, HR 1809 or "The Faster Filing Act", which will require Veterans Affairs to publish wait times for claims responses, depending on the method.
"We need to meet our end of the obligation," said O'Rourke on the House floor before the vote Monday, telling legislators how El Paso vets see an average wait time of just under 460 days.
The legislation breaks down the wait times by the method used to file the claim.
The slowest, paper-form method, to the fastest, Fully Developed Claim method, or FDC.
Those who file using FDC are required to gather all their medical files supporting their claim and submit the documentation on their own, or with the help of a VSO, or Veteran Service Organization.
O'Rourke believes this bill will change the average processing time for El Pasoans from just under 460 days to 125 days or less.
Local 4 News asked the Congressman why he believes it would be effective if the FDC method is already available.
"I think there's been a lack of information for veterans in the past. This is going to help them get a response far more quickly and help the VA by reducing a lot of the paperwork," he said.
O'Rourke, in his town hall meetings, says that lack of information affects veterans of all demographics.
Additionally, more veterans may be attracted to a benefit of filing an FDC: getting up to a year's worth of benefits retroactively for the time they waited for their claim to process.
However, according to the Veterans Affairs website, those who file FDC claims won't necessarily get bumped up the list.
"If VA determines other records exist and are required to decide a claim, VA will simply remove the claim from the FDC program and process it through the traditional claims process," it reads.
In other words, if veterans attempt to withhold certain medical records, VA staff will still investigate the validity of the claims submission.
This prevents abuse in the system, said O'Rourke.
New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce also voted in favor of the legislation.