At a hearing Dec. 11 before the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, the Department of Veterans' Affairs Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey outlined progress made by the Veterans Benefits Administration in reducing the backlog of veterans' disability compensation and pension claims by 36 percent since March -- attributing the success to the combined impact of VBA's transformation initiatives and increased employee productivity.

"We know there is much more work to be done to reach our goal of eliminating the disability claims backlog in 2015," said Hickey. "But I'm encouraged that the improved tools and processes we've put in place so far are having a real impact so that we may better serve our nation's veterans, their survivors and their families.

In her testimony, Under Secretary Hickey detailed the elements of VBA's transformation plan, which includes re-training and reorganizing its workforce, streamlining business processes, and building and implementing new technology solutions. With each transformation milestone, said Hickey, VBA is successfully moving away from a paper-bound, manual process to improve benefits delivery to veterans, their families, and survivors through paperless claims processing.

For more information about VA benefits, visit, or call 1-800-827-1000.

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French Legion of Honor Awarded to Novelty -- Six Ohio veterans who helped liberate France during World War II were awarded that country's Medal of Knight of the Legion of Honor in a ceremony Dec. 6 in Columbus. John J. Turk, 89, of Novelty in Geauga County, entered the Armed Forces in 1943 and served as a Technician Fifth Grade in Batter A, 67th Anti-Aircraft Gun Battalion. He served on the European mainland from February 1944 until December 1945, and participated in the campaigns of Rome-Arno, Southern France, Rhineland, and Central Europe. Turk is a recipient of the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with four battle stars, the Good Conduct Medal, and World War II Victory Medal. The medals were presented by Honorary Consul of France Stephen Knerly, Jr., assisted by Ohio Department of Veterans Service Director Tim Gorrell.

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Material for use in this column can be mailed to Ron Seman, 7065 West 130th St., Apt. 120E, Parma Heights, 44130-7805, or email:

Happy New Year!