Congressman Andy Barr (KY-06) speaks on the House Floor about the passage of the Veterans Benefits Fairness and Transparency Act (VBFTA) of 2020 in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, September 22, 2020.
Washington, D.C. – The Veterans Benefits Fairness and Transparency Act (VBFTA) of 2020, a bipartisan bill led by Congressman Andy Barr (KY-06), passed the U.S. House of Representatives today. This legislation protects veterans applying for disability benefits with the VA by directing the VA to restore public access to Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ) forms on its website. Veterans and their advocates are required to submit DBQ forms providing medical evidence justifying their disability claims. The VA further complicated veterans’ ability to file disability claims by closing all in-person meetings in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, the VBFTA requires the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) to accept a veteran’s DBQ form for one year after it is completed by their non-VA medical provider, even if the VBA updates or changes the DBQ form. Veterans in Kentucky have reported difficulty submitting their disability claims, to which they are legally entitled, solely because the VBA changed its forms without their knowledge. Denny Hart, a veteran and member of the Sixth District Veterans Coalition, brought this issue to the attention of Congressman Barr.
“The VBFTA ensures veterans and their advocates will have access to required DBQ forms during the VA disability claims process,” said Congressman Barr. “The VBFTA also prevents veterans from having their disability claims delayed or denied because the VA changed their DBQ form without the veterans’ knowledge. Today is another milestone in our effort to protect veterans applying for disability during the pandemic and I want to thank my friend, Denny Hart for informing me about this problem and for his service to his fellow veterans as well as to our the Sixth District Veterans Coalition.”
“We must act to make it easier, not harder, for our veterans to receive the benefits they deserve,” said Congresswoman Elaine Luria, who is the lead co-sponsor of this legislation. Luria also serves with Barr on the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC). “The Veterans Benefits Fairness and Transparency Act would ensure that disability benefit questionnaires will be public facing again, on a website. As the Chair of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee, I was proud to partner with Congressman Barr to ensure our veterans have access to the resources they need to receive the benefits they’ve earned.”
Congressman Barr has been leading this legislation since April. The VBFTA unanimously passed the HVAC in July. This legislation now heads to the Senate, where Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee have introduced companion legislation.