Washington, D.C. Today, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Chairman Mike Bost (R-IL) and Ranking Member Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to modernize the appeals process at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who is in Georgia today as he continues to recover from two recent back surgeries, plans to introduce companion legislation in the Senate along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) as early as Wednesday, May 3. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Tim Walz (R-Minn.) are original cosponsors of the House bill.
"I am proud to introduce this long-overdue legislation to provide veterans with a streamlined process to have their appeals decided in a timely manner," said Bost. "As of March 1, 2017, 470,000 veterans are still waiting on a decision from VA. This is unacceptable, and I thank President Trump and Secretary Shulkin for making appeals reform a priority for this administration."
"I thank Subcommittee Chairman Bost and Ranking Member Esty for taking the lead on this important issue on behalf of the House, and I appreciate Chairman Isakson leading the way in the Senate," said Roe. "There's no question VA's current appeals process is broken. This new system would help VA move through the backlog of appeals so veterans waiting on their disability decision can have peace of mind."
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 processing legacy appeals.