Senate Unanimously Passes Tester’s Bill to Tackle Massive Veterans’ Appeals Backlog

Tester Sends His Third Major Bipartisan VA Reform Bill to President’s Desk to be Signed into Law

(U.S. Senate) – The U.S. Senate today unanimously passed Ranking Member Jon Tester’s bipartisan legislation to streamline the lengthy process that veterans undergo when appealing their claims for disability benefits with the VA.

Today, more than 470,000 veterans are still waiting for decisions regarding their appeals. The current appeals process is complex, inefficient, and confusing, and no longer serves veterans and their families.

Tester’s Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act will allow the VA to better address the massive backlog while helping to prevent future delays and backlogs by letting veterans choose the disability appeal option that works best without being forced to start the process over.

“Veterans have been waiting far too long for an answer from the VA. This bill will speed up the outdated appeals process so veterans can receive the disability benefits that they have earned,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “This bipartisan bill will cut government red tape and give the VA the flexibility and resources to process claims in a faster and more accurate way. I look forward to working with the President to get this bill signed into law soon, so that veterans in Montana and across America get the much-needed answers they have earned.”

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 is supported by VA Secretary David Shulkin and Veterans Service Organizations, including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, AMVETS and the Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Nearly 22,000 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.

More information about the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act can be found online HERE.

The President has also signed Tester’s Veterans Choice Improvement Act and his VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act into law.