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By Rod Thornburg / Special to The Californian
By The Bakersfield Californian
The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan bill Monday designed to streamline federal disability claims for military veterans.
According to a news release from the office of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the legislation authored by the Bakersfield Republican -- known as the Ending the VA Claims Disability Backlog and Accountability Act -- will "hold the Department of Veterans' Affairs accountable and ensure that our veterans' disability benefits claims are processed in a timely fashion."
The legislation passed on a vote of 404-1.
The legislation implements the non-partisan Government Accountability Office's recommendations to streamline required paperwork and communications between federal agencies, and ensure continued Congressional oversight of the administration's plan to clear the compensation claims backlog, the release said. The bill also provides new required training programs for VA employees who process claims to ensure they properly and accurately complete tasks designed serve veterans.
"I'm pleased that my colleagues have joined my effort to make necessary and important reforms to the VA to ensure that our veterans' claims are processed accurately and in a timely fashion," McCarthy said in a statement. "The reforms in this bill are intended to change not only the culture of the VA but also the processes themselves to eliminate the backlog of claims at the VA. I hope the Senate will take immediate action and pass this legislation."
A GAO audit of the VA requested by McCarthy found various problems, including the agency's failure to implement claims processing policies consistently across regions and the timely transfer of records between the Defense Department, Social Security Administration and National Guard.
The Central Valley Tea Party said Monday it "officially expresses its disapproval" of votes by four valley congressmen for voting for the budget deal earlier this month that reopened the government.
The deal continued government spending through Jan. 15 and extended the debt limit through Feb. 7. Voting for it were Republican Congressmen Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, David Valadao of Hanford and Devin Nunes of Tulare, and Democratic Congressman Jim Costa of Fresno
"Their votes demonstrate that they do not grasp or do not attach sufficient importance to the severity of our nation's out-of-control spending and massive accumulation of debt," the tea party group said in a statement.
It said tea party participants will support them in actions to reduce spending and get to a balanced budget and that it wants the congressmen to hold a town hall meeting to discuss fiscal issues.
At the time of the vote, McCarthy and Valadao said they fought hard to get a fiscally responsible, long-term budget deal and will continue to do so.