SHAHEEN, HASSAN INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO OVERHAUL BROKEN VA APPEALS PROCESS

**VA appeals process has not been updated since 1933, more than 450,000 appeals are currently pending**

March 23, 2017

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) today joined a group of 17 Senators in introducing legislation to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs’ broken appeals process. The process has not been updated since 1933, and more than 450,000 appeals are currently pending. Because of redundancies and inefficiencies in the current process, most veterans wait years for a decision on their appeals. By replacing the current process, the Department of Veterans Affairs Appeals Modernization Act would expedite appeals before the Board of Veterans Appeals and give veterans clear options after receiving an initial decision.

"The convoluted appeals system that our veterans currently face says to men and women who dutifully served their country to take a number, get in line and wait, often for years,” said Senator Shaheen. “Our veterans deserve an appeals process that makes sense and allows claims to be processed in a timely manner, not a complicated process of red tape. The VA Appeals Modernization Act is a smart bill to help fix this broken system.”

“The VA Appeals Modernization Act is an important step in supporting our veterans, service members, and their families, who have sacrificed bravely in defense of our freedoms,” said Senator Hassan.  “I have heard from veterans in New Hampshire who are frustrated by the current VA appeals process, which is complex and inefficient. By streamlining the process for appeals and giving veterans clear options for appeal after receiving an initial decision, the VA Appeals Modernization Act will help us ensure that our veterans can access the services that they need and deserve.”

The legislation introduced today would give veterans clear options after receiving an initial decision by consolidating the current appeals process into three distinct tracks:

  • Local Higher Level Review:  This lane would provide the opportunity for a quick resolution of the claim by a higher-level adjudicator at the VA Regional Office. This lane would be a good option for veterans who are confident they have all the evidence necessary to win their claim.
  • New Evidence: This lane would be for submitting new evidence at the VA Regional Office. This lane would serve as a good option for veterans who believe that they can succeed on their claim by providing additional evidence.
  • Board Review: In this last lane, intermediate steps currently required by statute to receive Board review would be eliminated. Furthermore, hearing and non-hearing options at the Board would be handled on separate dockets so these distinctly different types of work can be better managed.

Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jon Tester (D-MT), Angus King (I-ME), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) are original cosponsors of the legislation.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Appeals Modernization Act is a reintroduction of S. 3328 from last Congress, which was supported by the Disabled American Veterans, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, AMVETS, the Military Officers Association of America, the National Association of County Veterans Service Officers, and the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs.