Congresswoman Elaine Luria Urges VA to Provide Timely, High-Quality C&P Exams
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs subcommittee (DAMA) Chair Elaine Luria sent a letter to Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, urging him to commit that VA will ensure all contractors provide timely, high-quality compensation and pension (C&P) examinations to disabled veterans. This follows a recent announcement by VA that it intends to shutter the C&P examination program at the Veterans Health Administration and shift to the use of private contractors.
“The VA’s decision to shift all C&P examinations for disabled veterans to contractors comes at a time when the global COVID-19 pandemic has caused a backlog of 350,000 exams and VA still has failed to implement GAO recommendations,” said Congresswoman Luria. “We owe it to our veterans to quickly eliminate the backlog and improve the C&P examination system so they can receive the benefits they have earned.”
In May, Congresswoman Luria presided over the first virtual forum dedicated to discussing veterans’ disability medical examinations (DMEs) during the coronavirus pandemic. The virtual forum, attended by several experts, addressed the growing compensation and pension (C&P) examinations inventory, what this buildup may mean for a claims backlog, and how the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) can safely and effectively conduct C&P exams during the current public health emergency.
For many veterans, thorough and accurate C&P examinations are crucial to securing service-connected benefits. VA’s quiet decision to carry out a major reorganization of its C&P program without a plan to make key improvements, reduce backlog, or retain employees is unlikely to deliver the high-quality results we expect. Considering these challenges, Congresswoman Luria asked for commitments and answers to the following questions:
- Please provide a plan and timeline for complete implementation of the recommendations in GAO’s October 2018 report, VA Disability Exams: Improved Performance Analysis and Training Oversight Needed for Contracted Exams.
- What steps, if any, have been taken to notify VA C&P examination providers of their opportunities to continue to work at VA in the event their jobs are under consideration for elimination and what are those opportunities?
- How many C&P examination staff positions does VA expect to eliminate in the migration to contract examinations, including any frontline scheduling staff?
- Please provide a list of the C&P examinations that will continue to be performed by VHA staff and whether VA has considered the value of having VHA examiners conduct specialty examinations for Gulf War Illness and other toxic exposures, Military Sexual Trauma, and Traumatic Brain Injury?
Click here to read the letter.
Congresswoman Elaine Luria represents Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, where she is the Vice Chair of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, where she serves as Chair of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee.