Durbin Meets With VA Nominee Robert McDonald

As Chairman of Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Durbin announces additional funding approved by committee to speed up veterans claims processing

[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) met today with Robert McDonald, who is nominated to serve as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), to discuss his nomination and the importance of at VA facilities in Illinois and across the country. McDonald was raised and went to high school in Arlington Heights, Illinois, before attending the United States Military Academy at West Point. A photo of today’s meeting is available here.


“Today I met with Robert McDonald, President Obama’s nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, to discuss a shared goal: ensuring that veterans who bravely served our nation – including the 750,000 living in Illinois – have their benefits claims processed quickly, and their healthcare needs met fully,” Durbin said. “These are promises that we made, and they must be kept.”


A photo of today’s meeting is available here.

Earlier today, the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, which Durbin chairs, approved the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2015. The legislation includes an additional $3.6 million in funding for the Department of Defense to continue developing a program that allows it to provide all records electronically to the VA. This would greatly improve the speed and efficiency with which the VA is able to process veterans disability claims.


“Implementing an electronic health records system is an important but very basic step towards improving the speed and efficiency of the VA’s claims process, and ensuring that our veterans are receiving the benefits to which they are entitled,” Durbin said.

Last year, then-Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a plan to modernize the veterans claims system and reduce wait times to less than 125 days with 98% accuracy by 2015. This plan includes instituting segmented lanes which assign easier cases to express desks and more complex claims to more experienced staff. It also includes implementing a web-based paperless portal for managing the claim electronically called Veterans Benefit Management System.

The VA and DOD have also continued working toward what has been identified as the best long-term solution: an Electronic Health Record system which would allow both departments to seamlessly share medical records. The funding approved today by the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee is an additional investment in the development of that system.


The legislation approved by the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee today also fully funds the budget request – $146,857,000 through the Department of Defense – to extend the DOD-VA pilot program at Lovell Federal Health Care Center for a fifth year.


Since 1999, Durbin has played a major role in the development and implementation of the Lovell Federal Health Care Center, which serves as an integrated healthcare facility for both veterans and servicemembers in the North Chicago region.