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U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Applauds Congressional Passage of Bipartisan Legislation to Overhaul VA Appeals Process

Bipartisan VA reform now heads to President’s desk to be signed into law

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin applauded the congressional passage of the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017. Senator Baldwin is a cosponsor of the bipartisan legislation, which seeks to overhaul the current process for veterans’ appeals at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The VA’s current appeals process is in desperate need of updating, and nearly half a million veterans are in limbo because of the VA’s existing backlog. Between fiscal year 2015 and fiscal year 2017, the number of pending appeals increased from approximately 380,000 to 470,000 – a more than 20 percent increase.

The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 unanimously passed the House and Senate, and now heads to the President’s desk for his signature.

“The current VA appeals process is broken and needs to be fixed. Too many Wisconsin veterans are waiting too long – sometimes years – to hear back on their appeal,” said Senator Baldwin. “I urge the President to sign these reforms as soon as possible to ensure that our veterans will receive timely decisions on their appeals so they can make the best decisions for themselves and their families.”

The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 allows certain veterans already going through the appeals process to opt in to the new system and gives the VA secretary the authority to test facets of the new system prior to full implementation. The bill also requires the VA to provide a comprehensive plan for both implementing the new system and processing the existing appeals.

Under the new process, veterans dissatisfied with the initial decisions on their claims will be able to:

  • Seek a higher-level review by a regional office on the same evidence presented to the original claims processors;
  • File a supplemental claim with a regional office that would include the opportunity to submit additional evidence; or
  • Appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, resulting in a possible hearing and/or the opportunity to submit additional evidence.

The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 was introduced in the Senate by Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and in addition to Baldwin is co-sponsored by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Robert Casey (D-PA), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Steve Daines (R-MT), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Dean Heller (R-NV), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), John Hoeven (R-ND), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jon Tester (D-MT), John Thune (R-SD), Tom Udall (D-NM), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Roger Wicker (R-MS).