Sen. Isakson’s Bill to Overhaul VA Appeals Process Signed into Law
Thursday, August 24th, 2017
U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, applauded the president’s signing into law the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, legislation Isakson introduced to modernize the woefully outdated benefits claims appeals process at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“For far too long, our veterans have faced unacceptable delays in their claims appeals. With this legislation, we’re going to reduce the time it takes for our veterans to get a decision and increase the opportunity for them to receive their just benefits,” said Isakson. “I am pleased that this legislation moved quickly to reach the president’s desk and to be signed into law.”
The VA’s current appeals process is in desperate need of updating, and nearly half a million veterans are in limbo because of the VA’s existing backlog. Between fiscal year 2015 and fiscal year 2017, the number of pending appeals increased from approximately 380,000 to 470,000 – a more than 20 percent increase. Isakson’s legislation, the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, would create an improved appeals process for veterans who are dissatisfied with the initial decisions on their claims.
Introduced by Isakson on May 3, the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 is cosponsored by 31 senators: U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Robert Casey, D-Pa., Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Steve Daines, R-Mont., Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Dean Heller, R-Nev., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, John Hoeven, R-N.D., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Angus King, I-Maine, Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Jon Tester, D-Mont., John Thune, R-S.D., Tom Udall, D-N.M., Mark Warner, D-Va., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, during a pro forma session on August 11. The measure was passed unanimously by the Senate on August 1.
Isakson highlighted broad support for the measure from VA Secretary David Shulkin, VA state directors around the country, as well as from several veterans’ advocacy groups that represent millions of veterans in the United States.