Texas Veterans Commission and Veteran Service Organizations meet with Senator John Cornyn about claims backlog
On Friday, July 19, U.S. Senator John Cornyn met with Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) Executive Director Thomas Palladino and local Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) regarding the ongoing backlog of claims at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). While VSO representatives were able to discuss the backlog issue with Sen. Cornyn, they also had the opportunity to boast positive improvements and present new solutions and programs in Texas. While central Texas Veterans experience some of the longest delays in the nation, the state is also nationally known for leading the way on Veterans' issues.
Denton County VSO Paul Bastaich said that Texas owes much of its success to publicizing the benefits available to its Veterans.
"I was the ignorant Veteran; I did not know how to file my claim," Bastaich said at the Sen. Cornyn meeting. "A lot boils down to education and getting the word out that offices like mine exist and we're out to expedite the process. The best way to get the backlog reduced is to use the fully developed claims process and more Veterans service officers to process claims."
Sen. Cornyn agreed that Texas' efforts to recruit more VSOs and Veterans into the backlog reduction process should serve as an example to the rest of the United States.
"Initiatives such as the Texas Veterans Commission's 'Beat the Backlog' Clinics and Strike Force Teams have proven successful in assisting Veterans with getting their claims processed faster by the VA," said Sen. Cornyn. "These types of efforts should be promoted and replicated across the nation."
U.S. Senator John Cornyn and TVC Executive Director Thomas Palladino discuss the VA backlog with local Veteran Service Organizations
"The Texas Veterans Commission has implemented key programs, like 'Beating the VA Backlog' Clinics, that have been proven successful in assisting Veterans with getting their claims processed faster and the benefits they deserve," said Thomas Palladino, TVC Executive Director.
Congressman O'Rourke Partners with the Texas Veterans Commission to Help Alleviate the VA Backlog in El Paso
Congressman Beto O'Rourke (TX-16) will host a "Beating the VA Backlog: Backlog and Fully Developed Claims" event in partnership with The Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) in El Paso on September 4 in order to provide specific, one-on-one guidance to Texas Veterans, family members and survivors with new or pending disability claims from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This event will take place in at the El Paso Suites Hotel from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
"I represent more than 80,000 Veterans in the El Paso region, many of whom have waited an average of 449 days to get a response on their benefits claims," said Congressman O'Rourke. "That is why my office has partnered with the Texas Veterans Commission to host an event that will help Veterans with the benefit claims process. We owe a tremendous amount to our Veterans. We must uphold our end of the bargain and help them receive the benefits they have earned."
This event is part of the ongoing outreach effort at TVC to help Veterans locally and in person with their backlogged disability claims, and TVC State Strike Force and Fully Developed Claims Team members as well as TVC Claims Counselors will be at the event to serve Veterans.
"In the last year, the teams have already helped more than 22,000 Veterans with their backlogged claims," said Thomas Palladino, TVC Executive Director. "This 'Beating the VA Backlog' event is an opportunity for Veterans in El Paso to talk to a claims counselor one-on-one about their specific case and get information first hand."
The State Strike Force Teams and the Fully Developed Claims Teams were created by Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, and House Speaker Joe Straus in July 2012 and continued by the 83rd Legislature to help alleviate the backlog of disability claims in Texas, where the two VA Regional Offices had the third and fourth highest numbers of pending claims in the country.
The upcoming "Beating the VA Backlog" event is open to all Veterans, their families and survivors, and all services are free of charge. Preregistering will give staff an opportunity to research your claim prior to the event and provide you with the ability to select an appointment time. Walk-ins are allowed on a first-come, first-served basis as time allows. For details regarding this event, contact information and registration, please visit: http://www.tvc.state.tx.us/Beating-the-VA-Backlog.aspx.
Texas Veterans Commission and student Veteran organizations prepare for new school year
As a new school year begins, colleges and universities across Texas are holding orientation sessions for incoming student Veterans.
Sessions around the state have included introductions from the student Veteran staff, an education representative from the Texas Veterans Commission as well as information on student Veteran services, the Student Veteran Center, and other Veteran-specific resources that are available to student Veterans on campus.
The University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin) recently held their second annual Student Veteran Orientation session, and Ben Armstrong, the Student Veteran Coordinator, was there to welcome the incoming students.
"Our second year of Student Veteran Orientation sessions has gone really smooth. With the support of UT-Austin's New Student Services, the Texas Veteran Commissions Claims and Education, the VA Regional Office in Waco, and the VA Austin Outpatient Clinic, we were able to really do something unique," said Armstrong.
UT-Austin's evening sessions also included a "meet and mingle" event so that the student Veterans could interact with members of the Student Veteran Association, university staff representatives, representatives from local Veteran organizations and new incoming student Veterans. A Texas Veterans Commission Claims Counselor and a Texas Veterans Commission Employment Representative also attended to answer questions about obtaining their benefits, finding work after graduation and filing claims for disability compensation.
"It is great to see schools creating Veteran Orientations for the incoming students," said Bonnie Fletcher, Veterans Education Outreach Coordinator. "This not only gives the student Veteran a comforting feeling when entering school after the military but allows TVC to make a connection and let them know we are here to assist them with our services."
For more information on your education benefits or bringing Texas Veterans Commission representatives to your campus, please contact Bonnie Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In June, Kathy Wood, Director of the Fund for Veterans' Assistance (FVA) at the Texas Veterans Commission, and FVA staff traveled to El Paso, Texas, to meet with various organizations and legislators to discuss the FVA program.
(Pictured right Kathy Wood, Randy Stovall and Mano Bonilla, TVC)
The Texas Veterans Commission Fund for Veterans' Assistance (FVA) awards reimbursement grants to eligible charitable organizations, local government agencies, and Veterans Service Organizations that provide direct services to Texas Veterans and their families.
FVA staff first visited Fort Bliss for a tour of the growing base. Randy Stovall and his staff presented a detailed overview of the Fort Bliss Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP). Staff met with ACAP representatives and viewed the ACAP classes in session. ACAP representatives provide mandatory pre-separation counseling to provide individual support in employment counseling and Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits.
Also, FVA staff attended a Veteran Citizens Advisory Panel (VETCAP) meeting on June 12, held by Congressman Beto O'Rourke's staff members, Richard Cerros and Cynthia Cano. Wood presented an overview of the FVA and answered numerous questions regarding the grant program.
The FVA staff visited three FVA-funded organizations for administrative visits. These organizations included: the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) El Paso del Norte which provides emergency financial assistance to Texas Veterans and their families; the Child Crisis Center which provides emergency shelter to military children who are victims of abuse and neglect; and the El Paso Veterans Court which works to address the challenges facing active military service members and Veterans who suffer from mental health illnesses that have committed crimes.
"We really enjoyed visiting El Paso and seeing the many positive initiatives in place for Veterans in that area," said Kathy Wood, FVA Director. "The FVA is proud to have contributed to some effective and successful programs that help the Veterans of El Paso."
Through visiting El Paso, the FVA developed stronger working relationships with each organization, which has resulted in a better partnership with the El Paso Veteran community.
California follows Texas' lead to end the VA backlog
The California Department of Veterans Affairs, CalVet, has created a State Strike Force Team modeled after the teams created last year at the TVC to address the backlog of disability claims at the VA. Find out more here. (Twitter) (Facebook)
About the Texas Veterans Commission
The Texas Veterans Commission is a state agency committed to ensuring all Veterans within the state of Texas receive the maximum benefits earned as a result of their service to their country. We provide superior service to Veterans in the areas of claims assistance, employment services, education benefits and reimbursement grants that significantly improve the quality of life of Texas Veterans and their families.