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Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty

Representing the 5th District of Connecticut

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Esty Bill to Reduce VA Appeals Backlog Signed into Law by President Trump

August 23, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Donald Trump today signed into law the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act, a bill authored jointly by Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) and Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL).

The legislation modernizes the appeals process at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to cut down on the claims backlog and reduce delays. Under the current system, veterans must often wait five years or longer for their appeals to be resolved. The Esty-Bost legislation marks the first significant update to the VA appeals process in 30 years.

There are 470,000 pending appeals nationwide, including 1,425 just in the greater Hartford area.

Esty is the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. Bost is the Subcommittee’s Chairman.

“Because of the enormous appeals backlog, veterans in Connecticut and across the country are routinely made to wait more than five years to receive the benefits they earned,Esty said. “That’s just not acceptable. Our bill to cut down on these delays is the result of thoughtful collaboration among Republicans, Democrats, veteran service organizations, and the VA itself. Today marks a huge step toward our goal of providing all veterans with the timely compensation they deserve for the injuries they sustained in service to our country.”

“It’s very apparent that Congresswoman Esty is working tirelessly to see that all veterans have access to the benefits they so desperately need and deserve,” said Peter Scirpo, Chairman of the New Britain Veterans Commission and an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan. “It is so important to make sure all veterans get back what they earned.”

The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act creates three “lanes” for veterans’ appeals, including the “Local Higher Level Review Lane,” in which an adjudicator reviews the same evidence considered by the original claims processor; the “New Evidence Lane,” in which the veteran could submit new evidence for review and have a hearing; and the “Board Lane,” in which jurisdiction for the appeal would transfer immediately to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. 

The legislation gives the Secretary of the Veterans Affairs the authority to test the new system prior to full implementation and allows some veterans already going through the appeals process to opt into the new system. It also requires the VA to provide a comprehensive plan for how the new system will be implemented and a subsequent certification by the Secretary that the department is prepared to roll-out the reform. Lastly, the Act requires the Secretary to submit periodic reports to Congress, including information on how many appeals are pending in both the modernized system and the legacy system.

This legislation was sponsored by every member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Click here for more information. Read the bill text here.

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