Legion applauds House passage of veterans appeals legislation

The House passed the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 during a pro forma session Aug. 11 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., marking the final step for the bill before it’s signed by the president and becomes law.

The bill, also known as H.R. 2288, would modernize the appeals process at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by creating a:

  • Local Higher Level Review Lane in which an adjudicator reviews the same evidence considered by the original claims processor;

  • New Evidence Lane in which the veteran could submit new evidence for review and have a hearing; and

  • Board Lane in which jurisdiction for the appeal would transfer immediately to the Board of Veterans Appeals.

“On behalf of the 2 million members of The American Legion, I applaud the passage of H.R. 2288, The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017,” said American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt. “The American Legion worked very hard on this important legislation from the very start, and we take a lot of pride in this bill to help veterans expedite appeals to their VA disability claims with the goal of significantly reducing wait-times.”

The legislation was introduced on May 2 by Representatives Mike Bost, R.-Ill., and Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., and passed the House on May 23.

On Aug 1, the Senate passed the bill, with changes, not in the House version back to the House to approve the changes.

The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC) noted that the bill would not only give the VA secretary the authority to test the new system prior to full implementation, but also allow some veterans who already go through the appeals process to opt into the new system. It will also require the VA to provide a comprehensive implementation plan and a subsequent certification by the Secretary; and periodic reports to Congress, including information on how many appeals are pending in both the modernized system and the legacy system.

Schmidt said he is satisfied that this bill will enhance veterans’ rights, modernize and expedite the appeals process, and ultimately reduce costs through greater efficiency. The American Legion looks forward to the president signing H.R. 2288 into law.

“For more than a year, we have worked closely with the Board of Veterans Appeals and the Courts, the VA Central Office, and both the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees to effect this change,” Schmidt said. “We thank both the Senate and House of Representatives for working together in a bipartisan manner to assist the fine men and women who have proudly served our nation.”