Express Appeals Act Update

1/29/2016

Good news for our veterans! We are one step closer to correcting the unacceptably long delays in the benefits appeals process for our nation’s veterans. Last night the Senate introduced their version of the bipartisan bill I authored in the 113th Congress and reintroduced in February, the Express Appeals Act (H.R. 800) (Senate version of the bill is S.2473.) My thanks to Senators Sullivan, Casey, Heller and Tester for introducing this legislation and bringing this bill closer to becoming law.

Here is how our legislation would fix the red tape and delays for service connected disability appeals:

• The Express Appeals Act would create a voluntary, five-year, pilot program to process fully developed appeals.

• The Express Appeals Act is voluntary, but empowers veterans to make their own case, and have the option to obtain an expedited result to their appeal, in lieu of the nearly three years they must wait to have their appeal decided traditionally.

• After receiving a decision on an original claim from VA, veterans would have the option to file an Express Appeal with the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA), by including all evidence believed relevant to their appeal up-front (new evidence can be introduced later in the process, in limited circumstances).

• Veterans’ appeals in this express pathway would no longer be sent back to the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) from the Board on Veterans Appeals (BVA) — a process known as a remand — for additional evidence development. If at any point in the appeal process, the BVA determined it needed more evidence, it could obtain and develop the evidence itself. This would save the veterans an average of 545 days.

• To simplify the appeals process, veterans would write why VBA rated their original claim incorrectly in their own “Statement of the Argument,” cutting out VBA’s time-consuming requirement to write a “Statement of the Case.” This would save the Veteran an average of 408 days.

• The Express track offered through the Express Appeals Act is strictly voluntary and at any time, veterans could re-enter the traditional appeals pipeline, with no adverse consequences. Veterans would simply lose their docket number in the express pathway.

Watch the video below where I explain more about the bill.

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