WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) has cosponsored a bill to help improve the quality and consistency of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability claims appeal process and help address the VA’s oldest pending claims. Specifically, the bill would improve and expand pro bono legal services for veterans during their appeals process and provide the Secretary of Veterans Affairs with additional authority to expedite consideration of unreasonably delayed claims.
“There wasn’t a waiting line when our men and women in uniform raised their right hands and volunteered to serve our country, and there shouldn’t be a waiting line when they return home and need help getting back on their feet,” Klobuchar said. “Many veterans wait years to get answers regarding their disability benefits. We must do better. By providing pro bono legal assistance to veterans and allowing the VA to expedite certain claims, this bill would reduce the appeals backlog and help our nation’s heroes receive the support they need and deserve.”
The legislation would provide more veterans with legal assistance and provide it earlier in the appeals process, which will result in faster and more equitable resolution of claims. Veterans’ appeals for benefits are initially reviewed by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals before review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Since 1991, Congress has periodically authorized the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims to work with the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) to provide legal assistance to low-income veterans appearing before the court. The Veterans Appeals Assistance and Improvement Act of 2015 would allow the LSC to provide assistance to a veteran throughout their appeal process, including their appearance before the Board of Veterans Appeals, which handles a much larger backlog of claims. The bill would also clarify that the LSC has authority to coordinate with legal clinics and other local legal assistance organizations to provide help to veterans.
In addition, the bill would authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to target and accelerate adjudication of the most unreasonably delayed claims.