Shaheen and Hassan Introduce Legislation to Reinstate Critical 48-Hour Review Period that Ensures Veteran Representation in Disability Claims Process

May 20, 2020

Senators’ Veterans Claim Transparency Act would allow veteran representatives, attorneys, and agents 48 hours to conduct a pre-decisional review of veterans’ claims

 

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) introduced legislation with their colleagues to ensure veterans and their representatives have 48 hours to review and dispute disability claims before they are finalized.

Earlier this year, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) proposed a rule to limit representative access to veterans’ electronic files in the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS), limiting a veteran’s ability to navigate the complicated claims process on their own. The Veterans Claim Transparency Act would reinstate the critical 48-hour review period to ensure accredited Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs), attorneys and claims agents have the ability to review and course correct benefits determinations, prior to VA’s final decision. 

“This is a commonsense bill that would help ensure our veterans receive the full benefits they’re entitled to and result in a more efficient VA process,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m glad to partner with Senator Tester on this legislation that supports our veterans in obtaining benefits and improves the VA claims process. The VA’s decision to eliminate this protection for veterans was misguided and counterproductive. I encourage members on both sides of the aisle to join us in this effort that rights this wrong.” 

“The VA should not have changed its process for how it considers veterans’ disabilities claims, especially in the middle of a pandemic,” said Senator Hassan. “Our bill reverses the Department of Veterans Affairs’ rule change to ensure that veterans don’t experience delays in receiving the benefits that they have earned because of small or technical mistakes in the applications that they filed.”

Various VSOs praised the Senators’ bill and highlighted the importance of alleviating pressure on veterans navigating the disability claims process.

“DAV supports the Veterans Claim Transparency Act as it would provide representatives the ability to work with VBA to identify and correct errors in VA decisions prior to final promulgation, acting as another layer of quality review for VA and veterans,” said Disabled American Veterans (DAV) National Service Director Jim Marszalek. “DAV is disappointed with VA’s recent decision to eliminate this practice which was in place for over seven decades and we believe the Veterans Claim Transparency Act can assist in alleviating potentially thousands of new appeals and provide immediate justice for veterans and their families.”     

“The 48-hour review period is an essential feature of the VA claims process,” said Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Associate Director Matthew Doyle. “It functions as an independent quality review check on claims decisions before final ratings are sent to veterans. The VFW thanks Senator Tester for introducing this important legislation, which would rightfully reinstate the 48-hour review policy.”

"The 48-hour review period is a vital step in the VA claims process and should be reinstated immediately,” said the American Legion’s Executive Director Chanin Nuntavong. “This decades-old policy gives VSOs the opportunity to review decisions and ensure the proper adjudication of all claimed conditions. The review period is critical in ensuring that veterans do not fall victim to bureaucratic oversight and signifies a long lasting partnership between VA and the VSO community. The American Legion fully supports efforts to reinstate the policy and allow VSOs to work in partnership with VA to ensure America's veterans are properly cared for." 

“AMVETS is supportive of this important legislative effort to make sure we get our veterans claims done right the first time,” said AMVETS Executive Director Joe Chenelly. “Reinstating the 48-hour rule allows our organization time to review a veteran's disability rating before it is finalized by the Secretary. Not only has this been a longstanding normality, but it is necessary to help a veteran achieve the disability rating they deserve.”

“Paralyzed Veterans of America supports the protection of the 48 hour rule permitting VSOs to review rating determinations before they are finalized,” said Paralyzed Veterans of America Associate Executive Director for Veterans Benefits Peter Gayton. “With the Department of Veterans Affairs and VSOs working together to identify and eliminate possible errors, we can reduce delays in final decisions ensuring veterans receive their earned benefits in a timely manner.” 

A copy of the bill can be found HERE.