Congressman Walter B. Jones introduces legislation while out with illness

WASHINGTON, DC (WITN) - Congressman Walter B. Jones (NC-3) has introduced legislation that would reduce the administrative burdens on grieving military family members and ensure they receive the benefits they are entitled to as quickly as possible.

Jones is currently recovering from a broken hip and an undisclosed illness. But his offices says the bill – H.R. 464 – was introduced in the House this month and has been referred to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs for action.

"Veterans and their families have sacrificed so much to protect our way of life," said Congressman Jones. "It is a slap in the face to burden them with red tape during their time of loss for a benefit they've earned."

H.R. 464 would improve the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefit for survivors of certain totally disabled veterans. Dependency and Indemnity Compensation is a tax-free monetary benefit paid to eligible survivors of military service members who die in the line of duty or whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease.

Currently, after reporting the death of a totally disabled family member, survivors are then required to apply for DIC by filling out a lengthy 12 page form. This form consists of information that the VA already possess, and results in a gap in payment while the form is processed.

In cases where the surviving family members fail to correctly fill out the cumbersome form, no compensation is ever provided.

This process presents an unnecessary financial burden on grieving families, as well as an increased administrative workload on behalf of the VA. Not only does the form need to be processed, but survivors often require the assistance of Veterans Service Officers to fill out the form. As a result, in some cases it can take 18 to 24 months for the VA to start paying DIC to the surviving spouse.

The bill would streamline this process by requiring the VA to treat a notification of the death of a veteran rated totally disabled at the time of death as a claim by the veteran's surviving spouse and children for DIC benefits. The VA would not require that such spouse and children file a claim for such benefits. Instead, they would be automatically "opted in." This would ensure that surviving family members quickly receive the compensation they are entitled to and reduce administrative requirements on the VA.

The issue with excessive red tape related to the DIC was brought to Congressman Jones' attention by an Eastern North Carolina military spouse whose husband recently passed away.

Serving America's veterans is one of Congressman Jones' highest priorities. Since 2003, Congressman Jones has cosponsored more bills to help veterans than any other member of Congress.