Summary: H.R.2288 — 115th Congress (2017-2018)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Public Law No: 115-55 (08/23/2017)

Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017

This bill revises the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability claims appeals system.

(Sec. 2) Specifically, the bill requires the VA to assist with a claim or supplemental claim up until a veteran claimant is provided notice of a decision. Additionally, the VA must assist a veteran during a higher-level review if an adjudicator identifies an error on the part of the agency of original jurisdiction.

The bill also requires the VA to provide a notice of decision to veterans regarding decisions affecting the provision of benefits that includes specific information, such as a summary of the applicable laws and an explanation of how to obtain evidence used in making the decision.

Under the bill, findings that are favorable to the veteran are considered binding unless clear and convincing evidence is shown to rebut the findings.

The bill permits a veteran to appeal a decision within one year by (1) requesting a review of the agency of original jurisdiction's decision by a higher-level adjudicator using the same evidentiary record; (2) filing a supplemental claim with a regional office that includes the opportunity to submit additional evidence and have a hearing; or (3) appealing directly to the Board of Veterans' Appeals, with the opportunity to select an expedited review to submit new evidence but without a hearing, or to select a review with the option to submit new evidence and request a hearing.

The bill authorizes veterans to retain the services of attorneys and accredited agents who charge a fee when the agency of original jurisdiction provides notice of the original decision.

The bill prescribes specific procedures on the filing of a notice of disagreement with the Board of Veterans' Appeals, including form and timing. If no notice of disagreement is filed, the decision becomes final except in certain circumstances.

The bill modifies the maintenance of dockets by the Board of Veterans' Appeals and the procedures for advancing the docket and holding hearings.

The bill sets forth the type of evidence that is permitted in the record for cases with a request for hearing, and also for cases with no request for a hearing. Additionally, the bill requires the Board of Veterans' Appeals to provide written notice to the appellant if the board does not review evidence that the veteran did not submit in time.

The bill requires the VA, prior to full implementation, to certify to Congress that it has sufficient resources and personnel to carry out the existing and updated appeals systems.

(Sec. 3) Under the bill, the VA must submit a comprehensive plan for resolving pending appeals, and implementing the updated appeals system.

(Sec. 4) The bill authorizes the VA to carry out various pilot programs to test the updated appeals system and alternative processes as long as it notifies Congress of such testing.

(Sec. 5) Lastly, the bill requires the VA to publish information on the VA's website regarding the processing of existing appeals and appeals in the updated system.