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VETERANS: Chairman Murray, Senator Rockefeller Call on President Obama to Nominate Judges for Crucial Appeals Court Charged with Hearing Veterans’ Disability and Health Care Cases

May 05 2011

As veterans claims backlog continues to grow and veterans wait far too long for benefits decisions, Senators send letter to President Obama asking him to move swiftly to fill vacancies on overloaded appeals court

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), a former Chairman and senior member of the Committee, have called on President Obama to quickly fill three vacant judicial positions on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. That court, which is charged with reviewing disability and health care benefit claims for veterans, is increasingly burdened with a benefit claim backlog that has doubled in recent years.

“Today, more veterans are waiting longer than ever to get answers on their benefits,” said Chairman Murray. “In fact, it’s gotten so bad that nearly one million veterans are waiting an average of 190 days to get their claims adjudicated. Filling these vacancies is a critical part of ensuring we have every resource in place to address this problem. As soon as these nominees come before the Senate, I will work with my colleagues to ensure they understand the need to move forward quickly with the confirmation process.”

“I was involved in the creation of this court in 1988 and it must be allowed to do its job on behalf of veterans,” said Senator Rockefeller.  “Clearly long delays and vacancies don't do that.  Veterans have every right to be upset these seats have not yet been filled with qualified individuals – there is no excuse.   We need these judgeships  filled so we can assist veterans and process their claims.  Chairman Murray and I will continue to push for nominations and immediate action in the Senate.”

The full text of the letter the Senators sent is below:

May 4, 2011

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC  20500 

Dear Mr. President,

We are writing to urge you to move swiftly to fill the three vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.  As we are sure you recall from your time on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, the Court is an Article I Appellate Court that has exclusive jurisdiction to review decisions of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. 

In order to provide the Court with an appropriate number of judges and to thereby provide more expeditious review of cases before the Court, it is imperative to fill the vacant permanent position as well as the two temporary positions that were created pursuant to Section 601 of Public Law 110-389.  Once you submit your nominations, the Committee will begin its review.

It is essential that veterans receive timely review of their cases.   Thank you for your attention to this matter.  We look forward to continuing to work with you and your Administration to improve the lives of this Nation’s veterans.

Sincerely,

Patty Murray
Chairman

John D. Rockefeller IV
Member