Trump signs Tester’s VA bill to streamline appeals for disability

For the second time this month, President Donald Trump signed a bill sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester to improve issues ingrained in the Department of Veterans Affairs, this time streamlining the process vets take when appealing their claims for disability benefits.

The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act is designed to address the VA’s massive appeals backlog while helping prevent future delays. It also lets veterans choose the disability appeal option that works best for them.

“Our bipartisan bill reforms this outdated and cumbersome process so a veteran can get answers faster,” Tester said. “This bill is a testament to what we can accomplish when Congress works together, and I look forward to the VA implementing these changes quickly and efficiently.”

Tester said the measure provides veterans three options, including the right to appeal their existing claim to a higher-level office.

They can also appeal at the same office with new information, or appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

“Montana veterans and their families have been waiting for answers on their disability benefits for too long,” said Tester, who serves as a ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Nearly 22,000 veterans in Montana receive disability compensation benefits from the VA, with an average degree of disability of 44.7 percent.

Nationwide, Tester said, more than 470,000 veterans are still awaiting a decision regarding their appeals.

Earlier this month, Trump also signed a separate bill sponsored by Tester to provide emergency funding to the VA’s beleaguered Choice Program, and to fund the expansion of the outpatient clinic in Missoula.

Trump also signed Tester’s VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act and the Forever GI Bill.