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House Passes Legislation to Modernize VA Appeals Process

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Today, Reps. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, respectively, along with Reps. Mike Bost (R-Illi.) and Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, respectively, released the following statements after the House passed bipartisan legislation to modernize the appeals process at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA):

"When a veteran files an appeal for disability compensation, they deserve to have their appeal decided in a timely manner,” said Roe. “It’s unfair to the men and women who have been injured as a result of their service to have their claim for benefits stuck in the appeals backlog for years on end. I am grateful to Chairman Bost and Ranking Member Esty for their leadership in addressing this issue, and I’m proud that this bipartisan legislation was sponsored by every single member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.”

“Today, members on both sides of the aisle came together to pass important legislation that will modernize the VA appeals process while significantly reducing the appeals backlog,” said Walz. “There is no doubt in my mind that this overdue fix will improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of veterans across the country, and I applaud Chairman Bost and Ranking Member Esty for their bipartisan leadership in championing this critical legislation. Ensuring every veteran’s claim is processed in a timely and transparent manner has been one of our highest priorities on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and this commonsense legislation takes us one major step forward in accomplishing that goal.”

“I appreciate my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for supporting this long overdue legislation to help fix the VA’s broken appeals process and backlog,” said Bost. “Our heroes deserve rapid access to quality care, and that begins with having their appeals decided in a timely manner. I encourage the U.S. Senate to take up this legislation as soon as possible.”

“Because of the enormous appeals backlog, veterans in Connecticut and across the country are routinely made to wait more than five years to receive the benefits they earned,” said Esty. “That’s just not acceptable. Our bill to cut down on these delays is the result of thoughtful collaboration among Republicans, Democrats, veteran service organizations, and the VA itself. It’s heartening to see our bill pass the House with overwhelming, bipartisan support. Today, we are one step closer to providing all veterans with the timely compensation they deserve for the injuries they sustained in service to our country.”

Background:

The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 would create three “lanes” for veterans’ appeals, including the “Local Higher Level Review Lane” in which an adjudicator reviews the same evidence considered by the original claims processor; the “New Evidence Lane,” in which the veteran could submit new evidence for review and have a hearing; and the “Board Lane,” in which jurisdiction for the appeal would transfer immediately to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

The bill would give the Secretary the authority to test the new system prior to full implementation and would allow some veterans already going through the appeals process to opt into the new system. It would also require VA to provide a comprehensive plan for how the new system will be implemented and a subsequent certification by the Secretary that the department is prepared to roll-out the reform. Lastly, the bill would require the Secretary to submit periodic reports to Congress, including information on how many appeals are pending in both the modernized system and the legacy system.

This legislation was sponsored by every member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Click here for more information. Read the bill text here.

 
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