The Department of Veterans Affairs and its administrations intend to resolve all veterans' appeals made before February 2019 in about three years.
The Veterans Benefits Administration, the Veterans Health Administration and the National Cemetery Administration plan to resolve non-remanded appeals by the end of 2020, and the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) is aiming for a December 2022 completion date by first chipping away at the number of hearing-requested appeals.
A remand appeal is one that has been sent back to a VA regional office. That may happen for a variety of reasons, including new evidence, a change in law or a change in the disability status of the veteran, among others.
"By reducing the number of legacy hearings," a VA spokesman said in an email, "the Board will be able to resolve the majority of its legacy appeals; however, VA anticipates that residual remands will continue."
Next year, the BVA staff will hold 36,000 legacy appeal hearings, despite expecting to add more appeals to its pending 60,000-plus.
Before Congress passed an appeals modernization act (AMA) in 2017, veterans appealing a VA decision had to wait an average of three years before reaching the BVA, where appeals could take another three years to reach resolution.
The AMA created three tracks for reviewing decisions: two involving the same administration, at a higher level of review or a supplemental claim; and another requesting a decision or hearing with the BVA.
Since the act, the board has also improved appeal resolution time and notification to veterans about outcomes by sending letters that are easier to read. It's also taken on more staff over the last two years.
"AMA has been in place for almost a year, and we are finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel for the resolution of legacy appeals," VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a recent news release. "I am proud of the work being done here at VA to make sure those Veterans waiting the longest for a decision get their results."
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct details related to the appeals resolution process and recent legislation.
— Dorothy Mills-Gregg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.