Legislation by Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., to speed the Department of Veterans Affairs’ handling of appeals for disability claims passed in the House Wednesday night.
The VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016 was combined with a measure by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, to create a framework to remove or demote VA employees for failing to perform their duties to serve veterans.
The bill passed by a 310-116 vote, with opposition to the accountability provision generating most of the “no” votes.
While the VA has reduced a logjam of more than 530,000 initial disability claims in recent years, a new backlog surfaced in 450,000 appeals, with an average wait time of three years to address them.
Titus’ measure will simplify and shorten the appeals process while giving veterans an opportunity to add evidence to their claims and choose to have a full review by the Board of Veterans Appeals, either with new evidence or as an expedited review without new supporting documents.
“I predicted this shift in the backlog and have attempt to prevent a tsunami from crashing down by working with the VA and veterans service organizations to overhaul this outdated and over-complicated system,” Titus said in a statement Thursday.