On January 30, 2018, NOVA testified before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs at a hearing entitled: “Appeals Reform: Will VA’s Implementation Effectively Serve Veterans?” On the panel with NOVA was DAV and PVA. NOVA focused on four issues in its oral statement: 1) the lack of detail in VA’s comprehensive implementation plan, particularly regarding treatment of legacy appeals; 2) concerns about RAMP, to include opposition to calling veterans to discuss the program; 3) VA’s failure to provide mailed notice to attorneys and agents; and 4) the importance of updated technology that is accessible to all representatives. You can read our written testimony HERE, and access the other testimony and hearing stream HERE. Similarly, last week, NOVA filed a statement for the record after an SVAC hearing that featured Secretary Shulkin speaking on various VA reform measures, including appeals reform. You can access that statement HERE.
The Government Accounting Office (GAO) testified on the panel with VA. GAO’s latest report, “VA Disability Benefits: Opportunities Exist to Better Ensure Successful Appeals Reform,” was issued yesterday. GAO made five recommendations for VA to adopt to improve its ability to implement appeals reform: 1) a detailed workforce plan; 2) a complete schedule of information technology; 3) better estimates of future workload; 4) a robust plan for monitoring appeals reform; and 5) a strategy for assessing whether the new process improves veterans’ experiences over the current process. Of particular note on page 15: “VA’s plan does not fully articulate how the agency will monitor whether resources are being appropriately devoted to both the new and legacy appeals process and how it will track both sets of workloads.” Regarding RAMP, at pages 20-24, GAO made several findings: 1) VA’s plan does not clearly define success criteria for RAMP; 2) VA’s plan does not articulate how it will assess RAMP before proceeding with full implementation; and 3) RAMP does not test all aspects of the new appeals process. You can read the entire report HERE.