Legislation that would give veterans three options when appealing their claims for benefits passed in the House of Representatives Friday, and now heads to President Donald Trump’s desk.
The House unanimously approved the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 during a pro forma session.
“I’m extremely proud of my friends and colleagues on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs for their continued commitment to bipartisan leadership,” said Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
“Thanks to the hard work of Members on both sides of the aisle,” said Walz, “this Congress has been more successful than any other in recent memory at passing bipartisan legislation that will significantly improve the lives of our nation’s veterans.”
More than 450,000 veterans are waiting decisions related to their claims for benefits, a process that currently can take up to five years.
The legislation would create three ways for veterans to appeal their claims. Veterans could appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, or request a higher echelon review within the VA to decide the claim. Additionally, they could appeal with new information to an arbitrator who had previously denied the veteran’s claim.
Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., issued a statement saying, “For too long our veterans and their families have faced unacceptable delays during the VA’s benefits claims appeal process. I am eager for the president to sign this important measure into law to help ensure we get veterans a response to their appeals in a timelier manner.”
“By working together we are truly making progress for our nation’s veterans,” added Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., the committee’s ranking member. “This bipartisan legislation will speed up the appeals process and allow veterans to drive the bus when it comes to getting the answers and certainty they need and deserve.”
Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin has previously listed appeals reform as one of his most urgent priorities.
The bill was passed by the Senate on August 1.