Esty-Bost Bill to Reduce VA Appeals Backlog Passes House
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act, a bill authored jointly by Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) and Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL), today passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 418-0.
To watch Esty’s floor remarks, click the image above or visit https://youtu.be/11a3PgcxjEc.
The bill 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. If the Esty-Bost legislation becomes law, it will mark 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. It’s heartening to see our bill pass the House with overwhelming, bipartisan support. Today, we are one step closer to providing all veterans with the timely compensation they deserve for the injuries they sustained in service to our country.”
“I appreciate my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for supporting this long overdue legislation to help fix the VA’s broken appeals process and backlog,” Bost said. “Our heroes deserve rapid access to quality care, and that begins with having their appeals decided in a timely manner. I encourage the U.S. Senate to take up this legislation as soon as possible.”
“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 of 2017 would create 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 bill would give the Secretary the authority to test the new system prior to full implementation and would allow some veterans already going through the appeals process to opt into the new system. It would also require 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 bill would require 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.