Today, U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO) supported the bipartisan passage of H.R. 2288, the ‘Veterans Appeal Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017”, which seeks to reform the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) appeals process by giving veterans more claim options. Specifically, it gives veterans three main options to choose from when filing their claims: to waive a hearing and the ability to submit additional evidence, submit additional evidence and have a hearing, or transfer jurisdiction over to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
Upon bill passage, Coffman offered the following remarks:
“It’s unconscionable to have those who have fought for our country and are in need of help, not be able to attain such because of a documentation backlog. Giving veterans the ability to streamline their VA’s appeals claims is not only the right thing to do, but will ensure veterans will have access to the benefits they rightfully earned.”
If implemented, this bill will allow current veterans who have appeals claims pending the ability to opt into the new system, as well as require the VA Secretary to report back to Congress an updated status of the system during its implementation and when fully operational.
As of January 1, 2015, there were approximately 375,000 pending appeals in the VA. As of May 1, 2017 this number had risen to 470,000 appeals pending—almost a 20% increase. This legislation was sponsored by all members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
The bill passed the House of Representative with a 418-0 vote.
The legislation received the support of several veteran services organizations including Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion and the Paralyzed Vets of America.