VA Appeals Modernization Bill Advances to Senate Floor

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), a member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, applauded the unanimous passage of S. 1024, the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, out of committee today.

“One of the most serious failings of the VA system in recent years has been the unconscionable backlog of disability claims,” said Senator Sullivan. “Each of those unanswered appeals is a veteran awaiting a decision the VA owes them. With more than 470,000 veterans waiting for rulings, the reforms put forward in this bipartisan legislation cannot be implemented soon enough. The legislation eliminates duplicative and unnecessary steps in the appeals process, provides greater accountability for officials making these decisions, and gives veterans new avenues to resolve their claims expeditiously. I’m also glad to see the Fully Developed Appeals proposal, something I’ve put forward since 2015, incorporated into this reform package. Our men and women in uniform who have given so much to our country deserve to be served in a timely manner and treated with dignity and respect. This appeals bill is another long overdue step toward restoring that standard.”

The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act 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 legislation would allow certain veterans already going through the appeals process to opt in to the new system and give the VA secretary the authority to test facets of the new system prior to full implementation. The bill would also require the VA to provide a comprehensive plan for both implementing the new system and processing 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.

A one-page summary of the legislation can be found here.

Following today’s committee passage, the bill heads to the full Senate for a vote.

# # #