Tester Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Improve Veterans’ Medical Disability Exams

Chairman leads legislative effort to streamline VA’s medical disability exam process and ensure VA can keep pace with increasing demand for exams 

Continuing his push to improve veterans’ access to earned benefits, U.S. Senator Jon Tester, Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, introduced bipartisan legislation this week to strengthen VA’s process of evaluating the medical connection between a veteran’s medical condition and their military service when filing for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits.

When a veteran files a claim for disability compensation, VA often requires a medical disability exam to determine if a medical connection can be established between a condition being claimed and a veteran’s military service. Between October 1, 2022 and August 27, 2023, VA completed 2.1 million exams—nearly 600,000 more exams than the previous year due to the expansion of benefits under Tester’s PACT Act. The Medical Disability Exams Improvement Act would ensure VA can handle this increasing workload by bolstering VA’s ability to hire more medical disability examiners and improving training for VA claims processing staff to determine if a medical disability exam is necessary if there’s already sufficient existing evidence to grant a claim.

“A veteran’s medical disability exam can make or break their claim for VA disability compensation, so the Department has to get it right,” said Tester. “Our bipartisan bill offers commonsense solutions to do this by making sure VA has the resources in place to get the job done, service rural veterans living in hard-to-reach areas, and deliver veterans timelier access to earned benefits.”

Among its many provisions, the Medical Disability Exams Improvement Act would:

  • Require VA to study and develop a plan to improve rural veterans’ access to quality and timely medical disability examinations;
  • Strengthen VA’s ability to hire medical disability examiners to conduct exams;
  • Eliminate redundant medical disability exams for toxic-exposed veterans filing for conditions they believe are not caused by their toxic exposure; and
  • Require VA to develop a mechanism for contract examiners to transmit evidence introduced by veterans during their exam for their claim.

Numerous veterans’ advocates have endorsed the Senator’s bipartisan effort to improve veterans’ medical disability exams, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), and National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates (NOVA).


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