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Veterans Line Up on Opposite Sides of H.R. 2288 — Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017

On May 23, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of H.R. 2288 — the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017. This came weeks after DAV (Disabled American Veterans) national service director Jim Marszalek appeared before Congress to call for the bill’s passage. As Mr. Marszalek testified, “The new appeals framework developed last year by VA, the Board, VSOs and other stakeholders would protect the due process rights of veterans — while creating multiple options for them to receive their decisions in a more judicious manner.”

DAV Washington Headquarters executive director Garry Augustine told, “We are happy to see appeals reform legislation finally moving forward.” The website reports that the legislation “has the full support of DAV.”

However, the bill has not been without criticism. Concerns have been raised over the way Section 2(e) limits the VA’s “duty to assist” a veteran once the Regional Office has made its determination. There is no discovery process in VA benefits appeals, so unless the VA has an obligation to go back into its files and find errors, veterans could be denied due process. This is significant because the Government Accountability Office has found that more than 40 percent of remands from the Board of Veterans Appeals to the Regional Offices are due to Regional Office errors.

The House wasn’t finished when it passed H.R. 2288. Five more measures affecting veterans’ rights quickly passed by voice vote:

  • R. 1725 — VA can accept medical examinations from private physicians as evidence toward veterans’ claims for benefits.
  • R. 1329 — Matches cost-of-living adjustments on veterans’ disability compensation to those of Social Security recipients.
  • R. 1005 — Provides access to adult healthcare during the day at home for veterans who are eligible for nursing home care.
  • R. 1545 — Urges the VA to comply with state programs that monitor when patients are prescribed controlled substances, including opioids.
  • R. 1162 — One-year pilot program for magnetic EEG/EKG-guided resonance therapy to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, chronic pain and opiate addiction.

As attorneys for disabled veterans, we believe it is important to keep veterans informed of their rights. That’s why we are watching the actions taken by the House and Senate very carefully. If you need assistance appealing your veterans’ disability benefits claim, call Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban at 866-866-VETS or contact us online.

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