Committee Reports

Recommendations to the Trump Administration Regarding Ways to Improve the Department of Veterans Affairs Claims and Adjudication Process


The Military Affairs and Justice Committee (Michael Richter, Chair) offered suggestions to the Trump Administration on ways the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) could improve its benefit claims and adjudication process. The law that governs veterans benefits is designed to protect veterans while, at the same time, prevent unjust enrichment at taxpayer expense. These competing interests lead to a legally complex regulatory scheme. VA claims adjudicators, many of whom are non-lawyers, are asked to perform what can be a complex adjudicatory task.  Mistakes in processing VA claims are not uncommon nor should they be unexpected.  In order to address the multiple challenges facing the VA, the Committee offers six recommendations to improve the system, including increasing the number of skilled, trained attorneys reviewing appeals; creating a statutory right to qualified counsel for veterans seeking benefits; and allowing veterans to retain an attorney prior to the filing of a Notice of Disagreement provided that the attorney either represents the veteran pro bono or on a contingency basis for past due benefits.