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August 02, 2017

Senate Passes King-Backed Bill to Reform Veterans Appeals Process

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today applauded the unanimous Senate passage of the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act, legislation he cosponsored that would overhaul the Department of Veteran Affairs’ (VA) 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 legislation would expedite appeals before the Board of Veterans Appeals and give veterans clear options after receiving an initial decision.

            “For too long, veterans have been tied up in a VA backlog because of a system that has not been updated since Franklin Roosevelt first came to the White House in the 1930s,” Senator King said. “The men and women who have bravely served in defense of our country deserve far better. With this bipartisan bill, we are taking an important step towards providing fair and timely review of veterans’ appeals and I urge the President to sign this bill into law.”

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.

In April, Senator King joined Maine veterans at a press conference at the American Legion Post 153 in Auburn to hear directly from veterans about the bureaucratic issues they had faced in the appeals process. That same day, Senator King released the text of a letter he sent to the leaders of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, in which he urged them to schedule a hearing on the legislation to begin moving it forward.

Along with Senator King, the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 was supported by U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson (R-G.A.), Tammy Baldwin(D-Wis)., Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Steve Daines, (R-Mont.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss).


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