WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) introduced bipartisan legislation to improve training for those processing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). By improving training for VA personnel who are responsible for processing disability claims, this bill would help ensure benefits are being correctly determined so veterans experiencing PTSD are able to access the health care, treatment, and compensation they need.
“Our veterans have sacrificed so much for our country. We must repay this service and make sure they’re able to access quality benefits that meet their needs,” said Klobuchar. “The VA estimates that nearly 16 percent of all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD, making it all the more essential that we process PTSD claims efficiently and connect veterans with the care they have earned and deserve.”
“Our men and women in uniform have sacrificed so much to protect our freedom,” said Rounds. “An estimated 16 percent of veterans’ PTSD claims were incorrectly processed by the Veterans Benefits Administration in fiscal year 2019. This kind of error rate is unacceptable. The quality of life of our veterans is seriously impacted when these claims are improperly processed. Our bipartisan legislation would establish and require a national training program for VBA claims processors to eliminate costly processing errors so our veterans receive the quality, timely care they have earned.”
The VA Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Processing Claims Improvement Act of 2023 would require implementation of recommendations made in a December 2020 report from the Office of the Inspector General, which estimated more than 15 percent of PTSD disability claims were inaccurately processed by VA personnel completed in FY2019. The VA Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Processing Claims Improvement Act:
- Requires the Veterans Benefits Administration’s (VBA) Compensation Service to:
- Update its ongoing national training program for claims processors who review PTSD disability benefit claims. This would include training on stressor development and verification
- Standardize station-selected training at regional offices
- Annually update the PTSD VBA’s procedural guidance to provide claims processors with better resources regarding best practices, including specific guidance regarding development of claims involving entitlement to service connection for post-traumatic stress disorder
- Establishes a formal process to annually:
- Analyze training needs based on identified processing error trends
- Conduct studies on military PTSD stressors and decision-making claims for claims processors to help guide the national training program
Klobuchar has long worked to support our veterans.
Last year, Klobuchar worked to successfully pass the SFC Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act, historic legislation that will deliver comprehensive relief to all generations of veterans who were exposed to toxins for the first time in our nation’s history. The legislation, signed into law last August, included Klobuchar and Senator Mike Crapo's (R-ID) Toxic Exposure Training Act, a bipartisan bill to improve education and training for Department of Veterans Affairs health care personnel to treat illnesses related to exposure to burn pits and other toxic substances.
Additionally, Klobuchar recently introduced legislation to expand access to colorectal cancer screenings for service members exposed to toxic substances or burn pits. The Barbosa Act, named after former Army Captain Rafael Barbosa, would authorize the Department of Defense to provide servicemembers who have been exposed to burn pits or other toxins with preventive colorectal screenings. Under the PACT Act, the Department of Veterans Affairs now considers any gastrointestinal cancer as “presumptive'' or caused by service and exposure to burn pits.
For more information on how to receive help with PTSD from the VA, veterans can visit ptsd.va.gov or call Klobuchar’s office at 612-727-5220.