September 21, 2016
Aguilar Introduces Bill to Help Inland Empire Veterans and Improve Accountability at the VA
Today, Rep. Pete Aguilar introduced H.R. 6078, the VA Accountability for Location of Records (VALOR) Act, which requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to complete record requests for veterans within 14 days, or explain the reason why the records will be delayed. Rep. Aguilar was inspired to write the bill following conversations with members of his Veterans Advisory Board and with Inland Empire veterans who have reached out to his office after struggling to access these documents from the VA.
“Our service members put their lives on the line each and every day, and for that, our nation has an obligation to empower them with the resources they need to succeed when they return. Right now, we are not living up to that promise. One of the most common issues veterans have approached me with relates to accessing medical or service records,” said Rep. Aguilar. He added, “These record requests are essential to helping veterans get the care they need to live healthy and happy lives, and to delay that information is absolutely unacceptable. We can and must do better by our veterans, so I’m glad to be able to take a step forward as we work to make federal programs work efficiently for all veterans.”
Commenting on Rep. Aguilar’s bill, Sgt. Dory Habachy of San Bernardino said, “I’m happy to see Representative Aguilar taking action to reduce wait times and improve accountability at the VA. I tried to get copies of my medical record for over a year before I went to my congressman for help. It shouldn’t have to be that difficult. Veterans deserve better and I’m glad that Representative Aguilar is taking the lead on this important issue.”
Richard Valdez, Legislative Director for the Disabled American Veterans, Department of California and a retired Marine who served in the Vietnam War stated, “I applaud and support Congressman Pete Aguilar's initiative to improve the VA's responsiveness and accountability with respect to veterans’ requests for information and/or claims records they seek for other purposes; this is in line with the VA's efforts to improve veterans’ experiences. The congressman's bill, the VA Accountability for Location of Records Act, is in line with reforming the VA's culture with transparency and real accountability.”
The VALOR Act requires the VA to provide a requested record related to a veteran’s claims, military service, or medical records within 14 days of the request being received. If the VA is not capable of completing the request within the 14-day time frame, the VA is required to inform the individual, explain the reason for the delay, and within 10 days provide an estimate for when the record request will be fulfilled.
Rep. Aguilar has been a consistent advocate for veterans, from establishing a Veterans Advisory Board to consult on issues including employment, homelessness and health care; to supporting legislation to reduce the VA backlog. Rep. Aguilar also voted for the VA Accountability Act, which helps reform the VA’s broken disability appeals process and helps end bonuses for VA workers who do not do their jobs to properly serve American veterans. Rep. Aguilar will continue working with his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure federal agencies are efficient and effective in serving our nation’s veterans.
The VALOR Act can be read in full here.