By Rick Maze – Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Nov 18, 2009 16:51:12 EST
A House subcommittee moved Wednesday to reduce the amount of time it takes for a veteran to appeal a benefits decision, which can add two to five years to the wait for benefits. Approved by the disability assistance and memorial affairs subcommittee of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, the unnumbered draft bill, called the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2009, attempts to streamline both the administration appeals process within the Veterans Affairs Department and the judicial review process through the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Included in the bill are procedural changes, such as allowing new information from a veteran whose claim is under appeal to be sent directly to the Board of Veterans Affairs, rather than to a regional office where it would have to work its way through the bureaucracy; and giving the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims the power to review an entire claim, not just one part at a time. The change in the appeals court process is aimed at what veterans have come to call the “hamster wheel” of having a claim with multiple issues decided one at a time in a process that never seems to end as the claim is sent back and forth between the regional official and administrative board.