I’m proud to represent nearly 76,000 veterans in the Fifth District, and I am committed to ensuring they have access to the care and resources they’ve earned and the respect they deserve. That’s why I was deeply disappointed to learn that the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Baltimore Regional Office, which serves Maryland veterans, has one of the largest backlogs of claims and highest rate of errors in the country. The fact that veterans in our state have to wait on average 11 months for a claims decision is unacceptable. Our Maryland veterans deserve better, which is why I invited the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, to meet with the entire Maryland House Delegation yesterday to discuss how the VA intends to improve operations at the Baltimore Regional Office.
I’m pleased the VA is taking positive steps to better serve our veterans and their families. Last week, the Secretary announced that the VA will expedite claims that have been backlogged for more than a year; and in February, he announced that the Baltimore Regional Office would receive additional staff training, an influx of senior staff, and a new digital processing system ahead of schedule.
We’ve seen positive results at the Baltimore Regional Office as a result of these changes. However, we must do more to improve the functionality of the office by retaining a qualified workforce that can handle complex casework; ensuring senior leadership positions at the office are filled; and prioritizing older cases in the claims backlog. I also told the Secretary that we need to improve communication between the Baltimore Regional Office and Congressional staff that handle casework for constituents who are veterans. I requested that leadership at the Baltimore Regional Office meet with Congressional staff to discuss the status of individual casework. I encourage all Fifth District veterans to contact my office if you are experiencing a problem with processing a claim with the Baltimore Regional Office, and we will do everything we can to assist you.
I will continue to monitor the situation at the Baltimore Regional office. Working together with Secretary Shinseki and the entire Maryland delegation, I’m hopeful we can improve services for veterans in the Fifth District and throughout Maryland, and ensure they receive their benefits in a timely manner.
As always, thank you for allowing me to share this update with you. Please contact my District Offices in Greenbelt and Waldorf with questions regarding casework. I also encourage you to connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.