Vet's Health Care Access a Priority; VA Boss Wants Veterans to Get the Benefits They Are Owed

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Byline: CAROLE HAWKINS

ST. SIMONS ISLAND - The nation's top Veterans Affairs official said he wants to cut through the red tape that slows down the delivery of health care for U.S. veterans.

Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Gordon Mansfield addressed a crowd of more than 200 Wednesday at the state's Veterans Service Officer Training Conference at Sea Palms Resort on St. Simons Island. The annual event provides updates on veterans health benefits and laws to service officers who usher veterans through the process at county Veterans Service offices.

Mansfield has worked for the VA since 2001 and became acting director on Oct. 1. He praised the VA's health-care system as one of the best in the country and said timely access to that health care would be one of his administration's top priorities.

"We are working hard to make sure every Georgia veteran gets the benefits they are owed," Mansfield said. "I want you to know that I understand that these benefits are earned by service that has been provided to this nation. They need to be delivered in an efficient and timely manner."

As a Vietnam veteran who suffered a spinal cord injury during the 1968 Tet offensive, Mansfield can identify with that statement. The VA benefits package is good: It just needs to come more quickly, he said.

Statutory and court requirements expand and complicate the process of filing claims for veterans. Better case management is needed to fast track these claims, he said.

"We just have to do a better job of operating the business side so we can get these cases moving through the system," he said. …