Tester’s Bill to Address Massive Appeals Backlog Heads to Senate Floor

Committee Passes Bipartisan Legislation to Speed Up Veterans’ Disability Appeals

(U.S. Senate) – The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee today passed Ranking Member Jon Tester’s legislation to streamline the lengthy process that veterans undergo when appealing their disability ratings from the VA.

A veteran’s disability rating determines what VA services and benefits he or she can receive.

Tester’s bipartisan Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act will let veterans choose the disability appeal option that works best without being forced to start the process over when introducing new evidence.

The backlog of pending appeals has grown to more than 470,000 nationwide. Tester’s bill will allow the VA to better address the massive backlog while helping to prevent future delays and backlogs by streamlining the appeal process.

“This bipartisan bill will cut government red tape and provide certainty for veterans in Montana and across America who are waiting for answers from the VA,” said Tester. “This bill gives the VA the flexibility and resources to process claims in a faster and more accurate way and allows veterans to customize their appeals process.”

The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act will give veterans three options: they can appeal their existing claim to a higher-level office, appeal at the same office with new information, or appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

Tester’s bill also holds the VA accountable by requiring a comprehensive implementation plan for the new appeals process. In addition, Tester’s bill increases transparency by requiring the VA to publish on its website performance outcomes relating to the new appeals process.

21,784 veterans in Montana receive disability compensation benefits from the VA, with an average degree of disability of 44.75 percent.

Tester has been a leading advocate in Congress to reform the appeals process and last year secured funding for the VA to hire an additional 300 claims processors to tackle the appeals backlog. In January, Tester successfully pressed the VA to exempt those claims processors from the federal hiring freeze.