A bill to improve the appeals process at the Department of Veterans Affairs co-authored by 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty passed the House unanimously. The measure is aimed at cutting down on the claims backlog and reduce delays.
Under the current system, veterans must often wait five years or longer for their appeals to be resolved. 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.
Esty noted that claims appeals are backing up and veterans are waiting too long for benefits they have rightfully earned.
Given that there are 470,000 pending appeals nationwide, Esty says this legislation is well overdue and would offer much needed relief for veterans. Esty said the House moved one step closer to providing all veterans with the timely compensation they deserve for the injuries they sustained in service to this country.
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.
Esty is the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. Should the legislation becomes law, it will mark the first significant update to the VA appeals process in 30 years. Esty said she was pleased to bring this news back to veterans over Memorial Day weekend, a time to honor service men and women who gave their lives when they answered the call to service.