The Department of Veterans Affairs says some veterans are waiting six years or more to appeal denied claims, while on average it takes approximately three years to receive a final decision.
VA officials complained that case records never close, and this open-ended system causes the appeals to drag on for years. Veterans can claim new evidence at any time, and the VA’s duty to assist in compiling that evidence and seeking more files from government agencies or private physicians stalls the appeals process.
Now, when a claim is denied, there will be three options to appeal. First, Veterans can request that a more experienced claims adjudicator review his or her case with the same evidence initially submitted. Second, a veteran with new evidence can ask the Veterans Benefits Administration to reconsider the merits of the original claim based on the new medical information. Third, veterans can engage in a formal appeals process where jurisdiction for the appeal transfers to the Board of Veterans Appeals. A veteran can also seek a hearing at this stage to review the case with potential new evidence.
By late November, the VA must deliver a comprehensive plan to the House and Senate veterans affairs committee on which veterans with pending appeals will be allowed to shift from the old system into one of the three options listed above.