Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed HR 1484 (the Veterans Appeals Improvement Act of 2011). The bill, which originated out the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs (DAMA) subcommittee chaired by Congressman Jon Runyan (NJ-3), streamlines the claims and appeals process for disabled veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The legislation received almost unanimous support by a vote of 419-1.
"The veterans' disability claims process is very complex," said Runyan. "All of the Members on the House Veterans Affairs Committee are constantly seeking ways to improve the process for both our veterans and the VA. This bill is a good first step toward accomplishing that goal by improving upon the current process."
HR 1484 seeks to correct the VA's outdated rules that require the agency to re-submit the claim back to a regional office if any additional information is added to the claim. This practice causes veterans to lose their position in the claims process log. Under current law, if a veteran submits new evidence to their case, with the intention of expediting their adjudication, they may have actually made the adjudication take longer. HR 1484 will simplify the process for submitting evidence to the Board of Veterans Appeals by allowing veterans to keep their place in line at the Board of Appeals for Veterans Claims when they submit new evidence in support of their claim.
"I am hopeful that the VA's new electronic processing system, which is currently in development, will greatly alleviate the backlog of disability claims," said Runyan. "We must do right by our veterans by continually improving the claims process and continuing to make changes to help those veterans who are currently stuck in a failed paper-based system. My staff is currently working on ways to improve training and accountability at all VA regional offices."
On Thursday, the DAMA Subcommittee will be holding a hearing on underperforming regional offices.