Congress approves bill intended to reduce VA claims backlog

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress has sent the president a bill aimed at trimming a rapidly growing backlog of veterans’ disability claims.

The House approved the bill by voice vote Friday during a brief session, sending the measure to President Donald Trump. The House is on recess, but a handful of lawmakers gaveled the chamber in and out of a session that lasted less than five minutes.

The veterans’ bill, approved by the Senate Aug. 1, would reduce the time it takes for the Department of Veterans Affairs to handle appeals from veterans unhappy with their disability payouts. The measure is part of an ongoing effort to reduce a longstanding claims backlog and is a priority for VA Secretary David Shulkin, who calls the appeals process “broken.”

Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said he was pleased at the bill’s passage.

“When it comes to putting our nation’s heroes first, there can be no doubt that Congress has been hard at work,” Roe said.

Besides the claims bill, Congress also approved a measure to remove time restrictions on veterans’ use of GI Bill benefits and cleared a $3.9 billion emergency spending package to fix a looming budget crisis and extend a program that allows veterans to receive private medical care at government expense.

Trump is expected to sign all three bills.

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