Kaine backs bill to ease benefit appeals process for veterans

tim kaineU.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced co-sponsorship of legislation to reform the benefits appeals process for veterans.

Because of redundancies and inefficiencies in the current process, most veterans wait years for a decision on their appeals. The Department of Veterans Affairs Appeals Modernization Act of 2016would replace the current process – which today stands at over 450,000 appeals awaiting a decision – with one that is simpler, more fair, and transparent.

“This bill will streamline the appeals process for veterans and make it easier for the VA to address a drastic backlog,” said Kaine. “For the nearly 800,000 veterans who call Virginia home, I am committed to supporting policies that uphold the promise of high-quality healthcare and services.”

The legislation 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.

Also co-sponsoring this bill are U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal, Jon Tester, Angus King, Tom Udall, Tammy Baldwin, Bob Casey, Mazie Hirono, Joe Manchin, Patrick Leahy, Patty Murray, Sherrod Brown, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Ben Cardin, and Ron Wyden.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Appeals Modernization Act of 2016 is 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.

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