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The Need for a Wounded Warrior Flagship Initiative
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has released a report describing how "red tape" is delaying veterans' access to benefits and services they have earned. The veterans' watchdog group says that the Walter Reed scandal was "merely the canary in the coal mine for a host of problems facing our nation's wounded heroes."

On the positive side, the report discusses improvements already made in veterans services and notes that overall, the "VA provides much higher quality of care than the nation's private sector hospitals...and has higher prescription accuracy and patient satisfaction rates as well." As the report explains, the "problem with the VA is not the quality of care, but a lack of access to the system."

One of the problems is that the "process of applying for benefits is arduous and confusing." Moreover, as "a result of the processing delays, with the exception of those with catastrophic injuries, wounded troops often face an unacceptable burden: chaperoning complicated paperwork through the military's bureaucracy while recuperating from serious injuries."

Additional problems for wounded veterans occur when they transition from DOD to the VA "including lost paperwork, a drop-off in the quality of care, and the lack of coordination between two distinct disability rating processes. As a result, veterans are suffering considerable delays in care and benefits instead of the 'seamless transition' they have been promised."

Minimizing paperwork burdens, ensuring "the greatest possible public benefit" from federally-managed information, and resolving policy conflicts between agencies are the job of OMB. Consequently, OMB needs to: 1) actively manage the DOD-VA coordination process; and 2) undertake a special Paperwork Reduction Act initiative scrutinizing and reforming the paperwork processes that apply to wounded veterans with strong emphases on minimizing the burden on vets and improving use of data collected and managed.

The special initiative would be consistent with the President's Open Government Directive which calls for reviewing PRA guidance. Thus, the project could serve as a model for OMB efforts to improve paperwork processes throughout the government. Moreover, the interagency coordination and paperwork improvement project should serve as OMB's "Flagship Initiative" under the Directive.

OMB needs to build on gains already achieved and take up the cause of further improving federal services to veterans. OMB should prepare regular progress updates and obtain comments on the Wounded Warrior Flagship Initiative.

See IAVA Report, Red Tape: Veterans Fight New Battles for Care and Benefits

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