May 03, 2017

Senator Hassan Part of New Bipartisan Effort to Improve Broken Veterans Affairs Appeals Process

Senator Hassan Part of New Bipartisan Effort to Improve Broken Veterans Affairs Appeals Process

WASHINGTON - Today, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Jon Tester (D-MT) in introducing the bipartisan Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 to help reduce wait times and improve the process for veterans in New Hampshire and America seeking benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

There are nearly half a million veterans in limbo as they seek benefits from the VA due to 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.

"Our veterans have sacrificed bravely in defense of our country, and we must do everything that we can to ensure that they and their families can easily access the resources they need to thrive in civilian life," Senator Maggie Hassan said. "Unfortunately, I hear from far too many veterans in New Hampshire who are frustrated by the slow, inefficient, and complex VA appeals process. This bipartisan bill will establish a new system that is more transparent and gives veterans the option to choose the path that works best for them when seeking an appeal from the VA."

The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 would improve the VA appeals process by creating three separate paths for veterans to choose from if they are not satisfied with the initial decision made by the Veterans Benefits Administration on their claims for VA benefits. The bill would also allow veterans already in the appeals process to opt into the new system. It would give the VA secretary the authority to test facets of the new system prior to full implementation and require 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.

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

###