Top officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs will meet this week with leaders from several leading veterans’ service organizations, seeking common ground on a legislative proposal that would overhaul the appeals process for veterans’ compensation claims.
In budget testimony last week, VA officials told lawmakers the appeals process set in federal law is “archaic and unresponsive.” But they want the buy-in of veterans’ advocacy groups before they send Congress any formal plan to streamline the process.
“We’re gonna lock everybody in a room, we’re gonna slip food under the door and no one’s coming out until we have something written down that everybody agrees with and that you can pass immediately,” Secretary Bob McDonald told the House Appropriations Committee last week.
VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) has made notable progress in cutting its backlog of initial compensation claims, from a peak of 611,000 in 2013 to 81,000 as of last week, including by hiring more claims staff and requiring them to work mandatory overtime. But the appeals process, handled by the separate Board of Veterans Appeals, has gotten comparatively little attention.