Congress reconvenes next week after its August recess, and we’ll be considering very important issues such as what to do about Syria. During the August break, I was eager to spend several days on the road in every region of Virginia. If you have just a moment, I would like share some very good news on real progress in efforts to help Virginia veterans access the job opportunities and V-A benefits they have earned through their military service for our country.

For some time now, I have been a big champion of an innovative program at the William & Mary law school, where W&M’s Puller Veterans Clinic puts law school student volunteers to work compiling the detailed documentation required for the V-A to evaluate a veteran’s disability claim. I have bragged about this William & Mary initiative in conversations with most of my Senate colleagues, and I’ve had face-to-face meetings with U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, where I have pushed him to expand this innovative model to help even more veterans:

  • At my request, the V-A has thoroughly reviewed the William & Mary law school program, and they now have certified the W&M Puller Clinic as an official “approved partner” in preparing and submitting V-A disability claims. The Puller Clinic is the very first law school in the country to earn this special V-A designation, and that should make all Virginians proud.
  • This means the veterans served by W&M will have their disability claims processed twice as fast. It also means the backlogged V-A will receive more complete and accurate claims, prepared at no additional cost to the taxpayers. Finally, it means these W&M law students will have a unique opportunity to develop real world training and skills. I call that a “win-win-win,” and I will keep pressing the V-A to expand the William & Mary Puller Clinic playbook to more law schools across Virginia and across the nation.

During the August congressional break, I also was pleased to help launch an exciting new initiative that will link returning veterans with high-quality job openings in Northern Virginia’s high-tech industry.

  • The non-profit Northern Virginia Technology Council has partnered with Monster.com to match the military training and skills of our veterans with current job opportunities at dozens of the nation’s leading I-T firms.
  • These Virginia companies have committed to step-up in a big way, going the extra mile to recruit, mentor, train and support our veterans as they transition back to civilian life. I am very proud to be part of this effort.

Finally, during a recent visit to the regional V-A processing center in the Roanoke Valley, I requested and received a detailed briefing on V-A efforts to clear a backlog that, at one time, stretched to more than 400 days for evaluation of a typical claim:

  • Fixing this unacceptably long backlog has been a primary focus of mine, and V-A officials tell me they’re on-track to completely transition from an analog, paper-intensive system to a digital, paperless system by the end of September. That will considerably shorten the time needed to evaluate claims.
  • After more than a year of effort, the V-A says it is on-track to reduce processing times from 440 days to an average 125 days by the end of September. Yes, that represents progress – a four-month wait instead of 14 months — but it is still too long for veterans to expect to wait for disability services and benefits from the V-A. You have my commitment to make sure the V-A continues to look for ways to innovate and automate. We must reduce those wait times even more.

More veterans choose to make Virginia their home after their military service ends than any other state, and the Commonwealth has always been proud of its partnership with our nation’s military. As this summer ends and our kids return to school, I appreciate this opportunity to share some good news about Virginia’s historic commitment to support our military men and women, veterans and their families. Thank you for your time, and please be in touch if our office can be of assistance to you and your family.

Best Regards,

Warner sig



Mark Warner