Last week, the full U.S. House passed on voice vote a proposal from two Florida congressmen to increase access for congressional staffers to have access to help clear the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ (VA) backlog.
U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., have been pushing the “Working to Integrate Networks Guaranteeing Member Access Now Act” (WINGMAN) throughout the year.
Back in February, the two Florida congressmen and U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., sent a letter to U.S. VA Sec. Robert McDonald, urging him to give congressional staffers’ read only access for VA benefit matters. The congressmen insisted this would give congressional staffers more information and would help ease frustrations from constituents and brought that proposal into the legislative arena with the WINGMAN Act. The U.S. House Veterans Affairs passed the bill back in September without opposition.
More than 130 co-sponsors lined up in the House including members of the Florida delegation: Republican U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan, Ander Crenshaw, Carlos Curbelo, Ron DeSantis, Rich Nugent and Tom Rooney and Democratic U.S. Reps. Gwen Graham and Alan Grayson.
After the House passed the bill on Wednesday, Yoho offered his take on why it was needed.
“Today is a good day for veterans across the nation,” Yoho said. “We owe our veterans a great deal of gratitude for the sacrifices they made for America and for defending our cherished way of life. Today’s legislative victory, on their behalf, will help provide veterans with the answers they need in what is, unfortunately, a long drawn out process. By streamlining the claims process, eliminating the burdensome step of having to use the VA as a middle-man, we can reduce the wait time for file requests that can take weeks or even months.
“I have said it before and it bears repeating, we owe our nation’s veterans everything. They deserve quality care in a timely manner,” Yoho added. “Making them wait months for the benefits they most desperately need is unacceptable. The passage of WINGMAN will help correct this.”
"Representing approximately 65,000 veterans in Florida's 18th District, I have made it a top priority during my four years in office to help our brave men and women who fought for our nation receive the best service and care they have earned and deserve. The WINGMAN Act would do just that by cutting through bureaucratic red tape to reduce delays in the VA's electronic claims process," said Murphy who is leaving Congress after losing to U.S Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., last month. "It is great to see this common-sense measure pass the House with strong bipartisan support. I thank Congressman Yoho for his leadership and partnership in this effort and now call on the Senate to swiftly follow suit so this bill can be signed into law to better serve our veterans."
“I appreciate Rep. Murphy support and the support of our House colleagues who came together in a bipartisan effort to better the lives of all our veterans,” Yoho said.
The bill now heads to the Senate where it is being sponsored by Republican U.S. Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Mark Kirk of Illinois, who was defeated last month, and Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
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