By Sandra Basu
WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump signed a bill last month aimed at reforming a backlogged claims appeal process by creating three “lanes” for veterans’ appeals.
The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 changes the process by implementing the:
- “Local Higher Level Review Lane,” in which an adjudicator reviews the same evidence considered by the original claims processor;
- “New Evidence Lane,” in which the veteran could submit new evidence for review and have a hearing; and
- “Board Lane,” in which jurisdiction for the appeal would go immediately to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
In addition, the bill gives the VA secretary the authority to test the new system prior to full implementation and would allow some veterans already going through the appeals process to opt into the new system. The bill requires VA to provide a plan for how the new system will be implemented.
“For too long our veterans and their families have faced unacceptable delays during the VA’s benefits claims appeal process. There are currently hundreds of thousands of veterans still waiting on a decision from VA,” said Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL), who introduced the House version of the bill.
Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), said “this bipartisan bill will cut government red tape and give the VA the flexibility and resources to process claims in a faster and more accurate way.”
Veteran service organizations (VSO) helped craft the bill.
“The American Legion worked very hard on this important legislation from the very start, and we take a lot of pride in this bill to help veterans expedite appeals to their VA disability claims with the goal of significantly reducing wait-times,” said American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt.
The nominee for new VA secretary has served as the White House physician for the last three presidential administrations.
WASHINGTON — Veterans from earlier eras should have expanded benefits related to family caregiver, but only if they are severely injured, VA officials have told Congress.