June 26, 2017

Crapo Co-Sponsors Veterans Claims and Appeals Bill in Response to Requests by Idaho Veterans

Legislation would overhaul current appeals process at the Department of Veterans Affairs

Washington, D.C. – Idaho Senator Mike Crapo today announced his co-sponsorship of S. 1024, the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act.  His endorsement follows years of statewide veterans surveys, hundreds of town halls, and numerous direct communications with Idaho veterans.  This extensive work provided Crapo with many detailed, personal accounts of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) claims appeals process and how it could better serve veterans.  S. 1024, the product of collaborative discussions among veterans, Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) and the VA, would overhaul the current appeals process and replace it with a new multi-track system to ensure veterans and their families receive timelier decisions on essential benefits provided by the VA. 

“Through my interactions with Idaho’s veterans, I learned of the challenges veterans and their families face while going through the slow claims process at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA),” said Crapo. “I made a promise to Idaho’s veterans that I would continue to press for sensible reforms at the VA, and this measure would address unnecessary delays and current shortcomings at the VBA.” 

A March 2017 Government Accountability Office report indicated that in 2015 veterans waited an average of 3 years for decisions on their appeals.  With over 370,000 disability compensation and pension claims waiting for a rating decision by the VBA, reforms are needed so veterans can receive timely decisions regarding their eligibility status for benefits. 

S. 1024 includes the following key reforms:

  • Establishment of a new three-lane process for processing appeals with flexibility to change lanes;
  • Expedited treatment of claims remanded to local VA offices due to staff error;
  • Ability for certain veterans with claims pending in the old system to opt into the new system;
  • Requirement that the VA design a comprehensive solution for addressing the backlog in the current system;
  • Protection of the effective date of a benefits award based on the original filing date;
  • Facilitation of independent medical opinions needed to file an appeal; and
  • Requirement for the VA to educate veterans on how to use the new system.

“The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act has broad bipartisan support to address issues surrounding the current claims and claims appeal processes at the VA,” said Crapo.  “This measure would establish a veteran-centric process to make the claims and appeals process easier for veterans, their families and VSOs.”

Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, introduced S. 1024.

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