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Senate approves Cochran-backed VA legislation

photo courtesy Telesouth Communications, Inc.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has approved legislation cosponsored by U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) to help veterans challenge their rejected bids for Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits.

The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (S.1024) was approved by voice vote.  The bipartisan measure is intended to tackle the troubling backlog of appeals pending with the Veterans Benefits Administration.  The bill would create three new options for veterans to appeal the denial of VA benefits.

“Many veterans in Mississippi and across the country are frustrated with the VA appeals process, which can drag out for years.  They deserve a better system,” said Cochran, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.  “I hope the Senate will soon consider this legislation to overhaul the VA appeals process.”

Mississippi veterans are among the nearly half million veterans whose appeals cases are mired in the VA’s existing backlog.  Pending appeals cases increased more than 20 percent between FY2015 and FY2017, from approximately 380,000 to 470,000, despite pressure from congressional authorizing and appropriations committees for the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve its appeals process.

S.1094 would allow veterans who wish to challenge denied claims to choose from three options to make an appeal.  In general, these choices include seeking a higher-level review, filing a supplemental claim with additional evidence, or appealing directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

S.1094 was authored by Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson, (R-Ga.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).  A House companion bill (HR.2288) was approved unanimously in May.

A one-page summary of the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act is available here:

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