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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

 

VA and GAO Agree: Appeals Reform Needed

March 23, 2017, 01:18:00 PM

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VA and GAO Agree: Appeals Reform Needed

Current legal process detrimental to Veterans

WASHINGTON — In response to a report released by the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO), “VA Disability Benefits: Additional Planning Would Enhance Efforts to Improve the Timeliness of Appeals Decisions,” the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released the following statement:

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) appreciates the work of the Government Accountability Office (GAO). This report confirms that the current law and process for adjudicating appeals is not consistent with the commitment we have made to our nation’s Veterans.

“Veterans are waiting far too long for decisions in our current appeals process,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. David J. Shulkin. “We have made bold changes to remove the bureaucratic red tape that has caused Veterans to wait an average of three years before they get a decision.”

VA has developed sound and aggressive plans regarding hiring, training and mitigation strategies that are already being aggressively implemented. In addition, VA recognizes the importance of effective management practices for the development of information systems to help integrate and streamline the appeals process. Our new Caseflow system will help us anticipate new information requirements, allowing us to quickly address challenges and provide our employees the support they need.

There is broad consensus that the current VA appeals system is broken and in urgent need of reform. Our proposal for a new appeals process was designed in conjunction with Veterans Service Organizations and other key stakeholders. VA strongly disagrees with GAO about the need for any type of piloting, which would only unnecessarily delay the implementation of the bold changes Veterans expect us to make.

“We have a number of reports and studies, including this one from GAO, which have helped us clearly identify the problems in the current system,” said Acting Under Secretary for Benefits Tom Murphy.

VA is working to make as many changes to the system allowed by current law.

“We need our partners in Congress to act swiftly, so we can implement the changes we all agree need to be made,” Secretary Shulkin said. “I am personally committed to work with Congress over the coming months to get this done.”

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