U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Applauds Committee Passage of Measure to Modernize VA Appeals Process
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee approves bipartisan legislation, now heads to full Senate for vote
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin today applauded the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee passage of the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017. Senator Baldwin cosponsored the bipartisan legislation, which seeks to overhaul the current process for veterans’ appeals at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The VA’s current appeals process is in desperate need of updating, and nearly half a million veterans are in limbo because of the VA’s existing backlog. Between fiscal year 2015 and fiscal year 2017, the number of pending appeals increased from approximately 380,000 to 470,000 – a more than 20 percent increase.
The measure, which passed the committee by voice vote, would create three separate paths for veterans to choose from when seeking redress from a decision by the Veterans Benefits Administration on their claims for VA benefits.
“The current VA appeals process is broken and needs to be fixed. Too many Wisconsin veterans are waiting too long – sometimes years – to hear back on their appeal,” said Senator Baldwin. “We need to pass these reforms as soon as possible to ensure that our veterans will receive timely decisions on their appeals so they can make the best decisions for themselves and their families.”
The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 allows certain veterans already going through the appeals process to opt in to the new system and gives the VA secretary the authority to test facets of the new system prior to full implementation. The bill also requires the VA to provide a comprehensive plan for both implementing the new system and processing the existing appeals.
Under the new process, veterans dissatisfied with the initial decisions on their claims will be able to:
- Seek a higher-level review by a regional office on the same evidence presented to the original claims processors;
- File a supplemental claim with a regional office that would include the opportunity to submit additional evidence; or
- Appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, resulting in a possible hearing and/or the opportunity to submit additional evidence.
Following today’s committee passage, the bill heads to the full Senate for a vote.
The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 was introduced by Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and in addition to Baldwin is co-sponsored by Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Steve Daines (R-MT), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Dean Heller (R-NV), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jon Tester (D-MT), John Thune (R-SD), Tom Udall (D-NM) and Mark Warner (D-VA).
Similar legislation was also introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Mike Bost (R-IL), and Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), chairman and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. Representatives Phil Roe (R-TN) and Tim Walz (D-MN), chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, are original co-sponsors of the House bill.
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