Costello, Fitzpatrick Introduce Bill to Connect Veterans, VA
‘VET Act’ Creates ‘One Stop Shop’ for Veterans Seeking Help from Local VAs
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ahead of Veterans Day, Congressman Ryan Costello (PA-6) and Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-8) together introduced the Veteran Engagement Team (VET) Act [H.R. 3936]- aimed at creating a “one-stop-shop” for veterans seeking assistance from local VA Regional Offices.
The events, referred to as Veteran Engagement Team (VET) events, would take VA employees out of the office and into the community to help area veterans in a one-on-one setting. If a veteran cannot complete their claim at the event, the legislation requires the VA to give a clear explanation of the next steps necessary to do so. This will help prevent the run-around and miscommunication that many veterans have experienced.
“Veterans are people, not just claims numbers. As we have repeatedly seen, we need a culture change at VA Regional Offices, particularly the Philadelphia Regional Office, and the VET Act is an effort to move the VA forward,” said Costello. “By bringing the convenience of these events directly to our communities, we are taking a step in the right direction to provide the personalized care the veterans need and deserve. Our legislation will provide more transparency and accountability so that veterans can solve any challenges they have faced throughout the claims process.”
“We cannot continue with ‘business as usual’ at the VA — especially the Philadelphia VA Regional Office,” said Fitzpatrick. “This ‘on-stop-shop’ concept has the ability to transform the dysfunctional culture inside the agency by increasing accessibility and positive outcomes for our veterans.”
The VET Act requires coordination at all levels starting with the local effort. Community doctors and veteran service representatives would have the opportunity to offer services pro-bono, and the VA could coordinate and use community facilities for no or minimal cost. The VA also would be required to use existing staff — not just hire staff to sit at these events. Finally, it would hold these staffers accountable by requiring them to submit a report that includes the number and types of claims completed, an explanation of the claims they were unable to complete, and an overview of customer satisfaction.
This method has been tested and it works. The American Legion has demonstrated the effectiveness of a similar program that puts veterans directly in contact with Veteran Crisis Command Centers. The American Legion saw great success with this program, starting with the restoration of trust between veterans and the organization. By rebuilding communication, many veterans received the benefits they had been waiting for years. This legislation would replicate this model at the federal level directly at the VA.