A DAV-supported bill to establish a new, voluntary five-year pilot program to help reduce the large backlog of appeals within the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) reached the Senate in late January.
Senators Dean Heller, Dan Sullivan, Bob Casey Jr, and Jon Tester introduced S. 2473, the Express Appeals Act of 2016, legislation which would establish a new channel whereby veterans, upon receiving a decision on an original claim by the VA, would have the option to file an express appeal with the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA), in lieu of the traditional appeals process. The express appeals process would consolidate the traditional process aimed at reducing veterans’ wait times.
“DAV and other stakeholders have been advocating for Fully Developed Appeals (FDA) for quite some time now and strongly support S. 2473, the Express Appeals Act of 2016, to create an FDA pilot program,” said DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director Garry Augustine. “With over 400,000 appeals sitting in a growing backlog, it is imperative to move forward with commonsense reform proposals like the FDA that have broad support in Congress, VA, the Board of Veterans Appeals and the veterans community.”
First, the appeals pilot program would omit the remand process, in which the BVA sends a veteran’s appeal back to the VBA for additional evidence development, saving the veteran an average of 545 days. Second, the veteran would submit a ‘Statement of Argument,’ detailing how the VBA decided their original claim incorrectly, in place of the VBA’s own time-consuming development of a ‘Statement of Case,’ saving veterans an average of 408 days. Additionally, entrance into this program would be completely voluntary and a veteran would be able to exit the express appeals process at any time and re-enter the traditional pipeline at the end of the line with no adverse consequences.
“We look forward to working with Senator Sullivan and the other Senate and House sponsors to pass this much-needed FDA legislation into law in order to help veterans get quicker and more accurate final decisions on their claims for benefits,” said Augustine. “DAV is grateful to Senators Sullivan, Casey, Heller and Tester for their leadership and continued commitment to this critical legislation.”