House OKs revamp of VA appeals in bid to cut claims backlog

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The House easily approved legislation Tuesday to cut the time it takes for the Department of Veterans Affairs to handle appeals from veterans unhappy with their disability payouts, an effort to reduce a rapidly growing claims backlog without adding billions in government costs.

Currently, veterans could wait five years or more to resolve their appeals. The VA previously warned it would need money for "hiring surges" in the government's fiscal year beginning next Oct. 1 or face a backlog, now at 470,000, that would grow to 1 million within a decade.

The bill would overhaul the current VA appeals process, long described by VA Secretary David Shulkin and his predecessors as "broken." It allows veterans to file "express" appeals if they waive their right to a hearing or the ability to submit new evidence. The VA could test the new program for up to 18 months until Shulkin could certify it was ready for a full rollout with enough money to manage appeals effectively. VA Appeals