By unanimous vote of 418 to 0, the House of Representatives recently passed legislation, titled the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017. The legislation was based on a proposal by the VA. The VA claims that this legislation will speed up the process of VA appeals.
Currently, the VA appeal process takes an average of six years when a veteran appeals their claim to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. VA claims that this bill will shorten the wait time potentially by years. This is a very good thing because the number of appeals has been increasing and is expected to continue to increase. Actually, the disability claim backlog has already started to increase.
The bill also creates more options for appealing veterans’ claims, including the option to take their appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. VA leaders say it would take about 18 months to establish the new system.
There is another bill to reform the VA appeals process that has also been introduced to the Senate, which parallels this one. It shows that both the House and the Senate are basically on the same page. The government has stated that reforming the Appeals process is one of its highest priorities.
Parts of this bill may speed up the appeal process. Specifically, the bill allows veterans to waive the review of an appeal at the Regional Office after a Notice of Disagreement is filed. This process alone can take up to three or more years. Instead, the veteran can appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
The concern is that the bill will result in many more appeals to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and without a huge increase in funding and staffing this group will be overloaded and end up with an increasing backlog of appeals, resulting in increasing delays. The bill also requires at certain points that veterans waive their rights and not be allowed to submit additional evidence. Veterans should not have to waive their rights in order to have their appeal reviewed in a timely manner. Another concern is that this legislation will only apply to new appeals and not existing appeals. This will most likely result in veterans with new appeals moving through the process quicker and at the expense of the veterans with older appeals.
Legal Assistance with Veterans’ Claims
If you need assistance supporting a veterans’ disability claim appeal or you are experiencing extreme delay on a VA appeal decision, call our lawyers for veterans at (800) 953-6224 or complete our free online veterans disability case evaluation form.