VA Secretary Robert Wilkie was six-years old when his father came home after being gravely wounded during the invasion of Cambodia. His father spent years recovering from his combat injuries, and when he finally retired, Robert Wilkie Sr. left service with two bad knees, needing two new hips, and with lead in his body leftover from that conflict in Southeast Asia.
His father’s experience during those years greatly influence how Secretary Wilkie views VA’s role in provided care and benefits to the men and women injured during their military service. To this day, he holds Purple Heart recipients, like his father, in especially high regard.
This is why he was so pleased to announce an amendment to the Veterans Benefit Administration’s (VBA) priority processing categories earlier this week.
“Those who hold the Purple Heart, the recognition of wounds taken in battle, will now receive priority consideration when it comes to claims before the Department of Veterans Affairs,” said Wilkie during recent testimony before the House Subcommittee of Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies.
VA Secretary Wilkie addresses House Appropriations Subcommittee
With this amendment, Purple Heart recipients who submit initial disability compensation claims on or after April 1, 2019, will be added to nine categories of emergent claims requiring priority processing from VBA. These include claimants who are:
- in the Fully Developed Claim (FDC) Program
- homeless or experiencing extreme financial hardship
- terminally ill
- more than 85 years old, or
- survivors of a former Prisoner of War (FPOW).
Also, any current or former member of the Armed Forces, or survivor who:
- was very seriously injured/seriously injured (VSI/SI) in service and is not already receiving Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability benefits
- is diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease
- is an FPOW, or
- received the Medal of Honor
Purple Heart recipients are already treated on a priority basis at VA medical centers across the country, and are exempt from co-payments for their medical care. Including their initial disability claims in VBA’s priority claims processing will further improve their overall experience with VA, and shows the department’s commitment to improving the claims process.
Here is how social media responded to the news:
— The Purple Heart (@MOPH_HQ) February 26, 2019
Finally, WASHINGTON – Veterans awarded the Purple Heart medal for wounds in combat will receive top priority for their claims with the Veterans Affairs Department, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie announced Tuesday! pic.twitter.com/IwEiKTA0rF
— Doc J! (@Devildocsailor) February 27, 2019
This is very cool and will directly affect my family.
Thank you President Trump for taking care of our veterans.
— PattyFromTexas (@PattyFromTexas) February 26, 2019