Veterans benefits

Veterans Benefit Reform Will Be Controversial, But Necessary

As part of our commitment to those who have served, taxpayers will spend $100 billion in 2019 on veterans benefit programs. The costs of these programs have more than quadrupled since 2000. Few programs of this size and importance have received less political attention.

The VA’s disability compensation system is complex, cumbersome, and often difficult to navigate. The approval process can be frustrating and slow – from obtaining copies of military service records to completing a comprehensive assessment known as a pay and pension review, which is used to assign a rating disability from 0 to 100%.

The exam itself was first designed in the 1940s. It has only been modified through iterative changes and may not correctly recognize some of the most common issues facing veterans today. today, such as post-traumatic stress (PTS).

Veterans who are unhappy with initial decisions often seek higher ratings. Despite real progress made by VA in recent years, the backlog of appeals remains large and hundreds of thousands of veterans are waiting for a system hampered by legislative restrictions and its own bureaucracy. This perpetuates an adversarial relationship between the veteran and VA. Many veterans who struggle to get an initial benefit decision find themselves locked into a complicated process of proving their needs.

There are few incentives for veterans to improve their state of health and reduce their rate of disability. Under current policies, veterans who improve may receive lower monthly payments. It also has an impact on veterans’ labor market prospects.

A recent study published in the National Bureau of Economic Research found that changes expanding disability compensation eligibility were associated with lower labor force participation among disabled veterans. This contrasts sharply with the large body of evidence suggesting that employment has a clear positive effect on the physical and mental well-being of veterans.

Disability compensation should be aligned with efforts to facilitate improved health and financial security for veterans. To that end, we believe the following five policy principles should be considered by VA and the 116th Congress. These ideas would allow the VA to test new compensation models as they modernize an outdated system:

  1. Disability ratings should be updated to reflect current workforce needs. The current system places a high priority on the physical attributes necessary for manual labor and fails to recognize the current opportunities for many disabled veterans to take jobs in an increasingly digital economy.
  1. VA should make better use of its vast data to make more personalized disability compensation decisions. Leveraging what has become common in the private sector, predictive analytical models can allow VA to tailor compensation more accurately. It can also be used to predict which veterans will need more resources later in life due to individual characteristics or known disability profiles. Using this data to provide better initial determinations would move VA away from a flawed and costly appeal and reassessment process.
  1. VA should use best practices in behavioral economics to incentivize decisions that promote well-being and financial independence. Veterans should be encouraged to access health care when needed (eg, PTS treatment). There should be simpler and more effective links between disability and health systems. Where appropriate, the disability system should be integrated with programs that provide service dogs, adaptive sports, and other programs that help veterans regain functional and financial independence.
  1. VA should facilitate savings plans in the form of an individualized retirement account to reduce financial uncertainty for veterans unable to participate in the workforce. With defaults that promote savings, VA can make it easier for veterans to plan for the long-term financial implications of returning to service with a significant disability.
  2. The benefits program should offer a lump sum payment option. Lump-sum payments can provide veterans with the resources to buy a home, start a business, or make other decisions that require capital resources upfront. Lump-sum payments are also beneficial to taxpayers because they can reduce future liabilities and create greater financial certainty over long lifetimes.

Reforming veterans benefits will be controversial, but necessary. If left as is, the current system risks becoming financially unsustainable. Reactionary funding cuts would hurt veterans and further undermine public confidence in our responsibility to care for our veterans. Americans’ commitment to our veterans is too great to forgo necessary reforms.

Kyle Sheetz, MD, was a member of the White House from 2017 to 2018 and worked on benefits reform and David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinFormer VA secretaries propose National Warrior Appeal Day to raise awareness of military suicide Biden’s nominee for VA secretary not a veteran — does it matter? The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Mastercard – Congress moves toward COVID-19 relief, omnibus deal MOREMD, was the ninth secretary of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.