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Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017

 

The need for a modern appeals system

The current process is a complex system that splits jurisdiction between VA’s three administrations and the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board). The process is too complex, contains many unnecessary steps, is confusing to navigate, and makes it very challenging to explain it in simple terms. In addition, although the appeal rate has remained steady for decades, the volume of appeals has proportionately grown as we have increased the number of claims decided – more than 1 million per year for the past eight consecutive years. This continued growth is far beyond our capacity to timely resolve appeals under current law.

However, thanks to the President, bi-partisan support in Congress, and the support of Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) and other stakeholders, those days will soon be behind us. On August 23, 2017, the President signed the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 – one of the most significant statutory changes to affect us in decades.

We began the 18-month implementation of the new process immediately after the bill became law. The law will create a new system featuring three review options for VA's decisions on benefit claims:

  • a “Higher-Level Review” option within the Administration that made the initial decision;
  • a “Supplemental Claim” option which allows for the submission of new and relevant evidence; and
  • an “Appeal” option, for direct review by a Veterans Law Judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

Under the new framework, Veterans may choose the option that meets their needs. This new framework will reduce the time it takes to process, review, and make a final determination, all while ensuring Veterans receive a fair decision. Additionally, the new framework includes safeguards to ensure claimants receive the earliest effective dates possible for their claims.

We will work closely with Congress, VSOs and other stakeholders to implement the new system over the next 18 months as we continue to make bold, positive change on behalf of Veterans, their families and Survivors.

Full implementation of the new legislation is planned for February 2019.