By: Eric D. Abes
Of course the title of this post makes no sense. But that is the path the VA is taking for its plan to “fix” the appeals process. Instead of spending the money necessary on additional staff and training, the VA has decided to change the system altogether.
Currently, when you appeal a VA decision, you can opt for a Decision Review Officer (DRO) review or an appeal directly to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA). The DRO is a senior, presumably better trained, and more experienced claims officer. They take a fresh look at your claim. If you do not like their decision you can then proceed to the BVA. A relatively straight line but one which takes a long time.
The new process will see more options for your appeal. You will still be able to opt for a higher level review akin to the DRO review, with options for a claim that needs more evidence and one which had all the evidence, but the veterans feels was in error. There will be multiple options at each stage. Proceed up the chain (and wait longer) or develop new evidence and stay at the regional office (and hopefully a faster decision). As anyone who represents Veterans knows, the more options there are at each stage, the more administrative delays as the VA moves files into the proper lanes.
I am not sure who decided to replace the system, but I know that our Veterans deserve better.