The Veterans Affairs Department said it has surpassed its goal this year of delivering more than 81,000 appeals decisions on claims for disability benefits and services.
In doing so, VA said it delivered 28,000 more appeals decisions in fiscal 2018 than in fiscal 2017, a 52 percent increase.
In a press release Tuesday, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the Board of Veteran’s Appeals had provided thousands of veterans with critical, life-changing decisions.
“The Board’s historic achievement delivering results to veterans and their families reflects VA’s hard work and commitment to getting it right for our veterans under the leadership of President [Donald] Trump,” Wilkie said.
The achievement comes as the agency prepares for the full implementation of the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, which aims to make the appeals process an easier, more timely and transparent process that is designed to give veterans increased choice and control. The new law takes effect February 2019.
Getting ready for the rollout, VA said it has developed new IT capabilities and held numerous training sessions and panels for national, state, and local stakeholders. It also said 186 new attorneys have been hired this fiscal year to help the agency work through the new appeals program and address backlogged claims.
While the VA perfects its new process, it is trying to prove itself to veterans by encouraging those who have pending claims to opt into the Rapid Appeals Modernization Plan (RAMP) .
VA sees RAMP as an opportunity for veterans to get a faster decision on an appeal. Of the more than 50,000 veterans participating in the program, VA said many are receiving decisions in an average of 100 days.