Administration officials this year are re-upping a series of reforms to the veterans disability system they estimate would cut down on tens of thousands of unneeded medical exams and save billions of dollars. The moves, part of President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget unveiled earlier this month, call for revising rules regarding medical exams for veterans applying for benefits. The idea was discussed — though ultimately ignored — by Congress last year. But the new savings estimates around the plan could draw renewed interest this session. In last year’s budget, VA officials estimated the moves would cut about $80 million in spending annually, and nearly $1.2 billion over the next decade. This budget cycle, they’ve raised that estimate to about $250 million annually and nearly $2.7 billion by fiscal 2029. Many check-ups, reexaminations and VA appointments duplicating private-sector medical evaluations could be cut, saving veterans’ time and the federal government money. VA estimates that more than 180,000 unnecessary medical appointments were conducted in 2016 and more than 210,000 in 2017, a small but significant portion of the department’s workload. The reforms package also includes changing disability compensation benefits to remove annual income from the eligibility calculation, a move that could increase the number of eligible beneficiaries but also save time and staff in calculating those payouts. “This helps VA standardize the calculation and potentially automate payments, allowing veterans to get payments faster,” the budget document stated.
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