On March 4, 2015, the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs (HVAC) Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs (DAMA) will host a roundtable discussion on the topic of Veterans' disability benefits appeals within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the judicial system.
Congressman Ralph Abraham, M.D., DAMA Chairman, will lead the roundtable at the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, DC. NOVA President Michael Viterna (Viterna Law) will formally represent NOVA. Also invited to participate are NOVA Treasurer Matthew Hill (Hill & Ponton) and Board Member Joseph Moore (Bergmann & Moore), both of whom are scheduled to attend the meeting.
Currently, VA reports that approximately 400,000 veterans' appeals are pending. As the number of disability claims rises in the coming years, particularly as more combat veterans separate from service, the number of appeals is also projected to rise commensurately. Thus, similar to the backlog of claims pending at the Veterans Benefits Administration, there is a rapidly growing backlog of appeals awaiting decisions from the Regional Offices and the Board of Veterans' Appeals.
As stated in the Committee’s invitation, “The roundtable discussion is designed to bring knowledgeable and interested parties to a single forum, wherein process, regulation, and law can be discussed and ideas for improvement may be fielded for legislative action in the near term. Systemic change is necessary, as the status quo is plainly unacceptable.”
NOVA is pleased to be among the leading Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) slated to discuss their views at the roundtable, including The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Vietnam Veterans of America.
Over the past few years, the concept of a fully developed appeal has been discussed by various VSOs and lawmakers at hearings before Congress and elsewhere on Capitol Hill. Last year, H.R. 4616 – the Express Appeals Act (introduced on May 8, 2014) directed the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a pilot program to provide vets with the option of using an alternative appeals process to more quickly determine claims for disability compensation.
Though H.R. 4616 died in Congress last year, H.R. 800 – a reintroduction of this bill – was introduced on February 5, 2015 and referred to DAMA on February 20, 2015 for consideration. You can read the text of H.R. 800 by clicking HERE.