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September 30, 2017

Veterans Appeals

President Trump signed legislation in Aug. 23 to improve notice, clarify options, and increase the potential for expediency for veterans seeking review of disability decisions by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act [P.L. 115-55 (H.R. 2288)], which was sponsored by Reps. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) and Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), creates new procedures for veterans who are dissatisfied with VA decisions regarding their claims for disability benefits. Under the current process, the number of undecided appeals recently has increased significantly, totaling 470,000 pending appeals earlier this year and an average wait of five years for determinations. The new law gives the VA secretary time to test a revised system created by the new law and requires the secretary to develop a comprehensive plan for implementation. The new provisions, if implemented after the test period, would allow claimants to request an immediate higher-level review by a regional office or take advantage of a new streamlined docket, “Fully Developed Appeals,” with the Board of Veterans Appeals. VA decisions also will include more information useful to veterans in understanding the reasons for the decisions and what options are available. The ABA, which supports efforts to address the backlog of veterans appeals, has worked in close coordination with the VA through the ABA Veterans Claims Assistance Network to provide free legal help to unrepresented veterans who have pending claims with the VA.


Back to the September 2017 Washington Letter