U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Supports Legislation to Help Veterans Through Disability Claims Appeals Process
Co-Sponsors the Veterans Appeals Assistance and Improvement Act of 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin announced her co-sponsorship of legislation introduced today by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to help improve the quality and consistency of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability claims appeals and help address the VA’s oldest pending claims. Specifically, the bill would improve and expand pro bono legal services for veterans during their appeals process, and provide the Secretary of Veterans Affairs with additional authority to expedite consideration of unreasonably delayed claims.
“This is a commonsense measure that will improve services to our veterans,” said Baldwin, “By providing pro bono legal assistance we can help our veterans navigate this often burdensome process, work towards reducing the appeals backlog and deliver better care for our nation’s heroes.”
Veterans’ appeals for benefits are initially reviewed by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals before being examined by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Since 1991, Congress has periodically authorized the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims to work with the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) to provide legal assistance to low-income veterans appearing before the court. The Veterans Appeals Assistance and Improvement Act of 2015 would allow the LSC to provide assistance to a veteran throughout their appeal process, including their appearance before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, which handles a much larger backlog of claims. The bill would also clarify that the LSC has authority to coordinate with legal clinics and other local legal assistance organizations to provide help to veterans. These changes would provide more veterans with legal assistance and provide it earlier in the appeals process, which will result in faster and more equitable resolution of claims.
In addition, the bill would authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to target and accelerate adjudication of the most unreasonably delayed claims.
The Shaheen bill is currently co-sponsored by Baldwin and Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tom Udall (D-NM) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
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