President Trump Signs Baldwin-Backed Bipartisan Legislation to Overhaul VA Appeals Process Into Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin applauded President Trump signing the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 into law. Senator Baldwin had joined Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and 29 other Senators as cosponsors of the legislation, which will 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.

“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. “This is a step forward in fixing the broken VA appeals process and providing veterans resources to live their lives.”

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 legislation 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.

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) also cosponsored the legislation.