Berlin Daily Sun: Kuster on Congress - Conveying NH Veterans’ Concerns to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki
Last month, I held a roundtable in Berlin to hear from North Country veterans about some of the issues that most concern them. As a member of the U.S. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I have traveled throughout New Hampshire’s second district to hear directly from the veterans community and am always looking for opportunities to bring their concerns to Washington. Veterans in the North Country and all across New Hampshire have made great personal sacrifices to serve and protect this nation, and we must ensure they always have access to the support and care they rightfully deserve.
That’s why I was delighted to have the opportunity to hold a breakfast meeting last Thursday with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. This meeting gave me a chance to share with the Secretary the most pressing concerns that I’ve heard from New Hampshire veterans. Many of the veterans I have spoken with have faced unbelievable obstacles to receiving high-quality care from theVA, and I’m appalled at some of the stories I’ve heard. No veteran should ever go without the care they need, and I urged the Secretary to immediately address their concerns.
Among other issues, I also conveyed to him the need to improve access to health care services for veterans in rural areas by implementing expanded contract services and tele-health medicine; I spoke about the critical importance of eliminating the backlog in claims at the VA and coordinating with the Department of Defense on electronic treatment records; and I asked for his support for better workforce and education training programs to help veterans transition to civilian life and land well-paying jobs.
In particular, I was encouraged by Secretary Shinseki’s update on the VA’s work to eliminate its claims backlog. I know that the backlog is a top frustration for New Hampshire veterans, and I am committed to improving the antiquated VA system as quickly as possible. In particular, the Secretary informed me that there was a 35 percent drop last year in the backlog after the VA began to work towards receiving automated electronic treatment records directly from the Department of Defense. However, the number of claims that remain trapped in the process is still unacceptable, and I urged the Secretary to continue to make modernizing the VA’s system his number one priority.
The meeting was a productive one, and I look forward to maintaining an open channel with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. As I travel around the state meeting with New Hampshire veterans, I will continue to fight on their behalf in Washington.
Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) was first elected to office in 2012. Since taking office, Kuster has spoken out about the need to eliminate the VA benefit claims backlog. Last year, she announced a legislative package to help the VA meet its goal of eliminating the backlog in full by 2015. Kuster also joined a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in urging President Obama to help end the back and forth between the VA and Department of Defense over incompatible electronic medical record systems. Kuster also continues to hold a series of job fairs in the district, which she encourages veterans who are transitioning to civilian life to use as a resource.