VA promises faster appeals, but will it be better?

Investigations

The VA rolled out a new appeals process this week that it believes will speed up decisions on disability benefits for hundreds of thousands of veterans.

The new law, the Appeals Modernization Act, went into effect on Feb. 19.

It offers veterans three different ways to appeal the VA’s decision on their disability claims.

“We have new technlogy. We have new processes and most important the new law, that gives veterans choice and control,” explained Cheryl Mason, the chairperson of the VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

Currently if the VA denies a veteran’s claim for disability benefits, he/she will wait three to seven years for a decision on an appeal.

Mason claims under the Appeals Modernization Act, that will change.

“They’re not stuck waiting without any options. They have the options to choose which is best for them,” Mason stated.

According to the VA, the options offered are: 

  • The Higher-Level Review option, in which a more experienced adjudicator will conduct a new review of a previous decision..
  • Supplemental Claim, in which veterans may submit new and relevant evidence, and the VA will assist in development new evidence under its duty to assist.
  • Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, in which veterans can choose one of three dockets, direct review, evidence or hearing.

Mason believes providing these options to veterans will reduce the appeals backlog.

“Oh, it’s going to do that alright. It’s just that they’re not going to get the decisions they want, more importantly they’re not going to get the decisions they deserve,” John Wells, Executive Director of Military Veterans Advocacy said.

Wells plans to file a lawsuit against the VA next week, claiming the new appeals process puts the veterans at a disadvantage.

“It’s a bureaucratic avenue to basically go in and strip the veterans of the due process rights and ensure that the appeals are so quick and against the veterans,” Well added.

“The VA is committed to helping veterans in a variety of areas,” Mason said.

“This is us trying to show that we are helping veterans and [are] committed to making a difference with our veterans.” 

Wells isn’t buying it.

“My whole belief on this entire process is, it was written by the VA, for the VA, to make it easier to deny veterans claims,” he said.  

“I think they sold Congress a bill of goods.”

For more information about the Appeals Modernization Act:

If you know of something that you think should be investigated, call our 8 On Your Side Helpline at 1-800-338-0808. Contact Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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