President Signs Cunningham/Katko Bill Establishing Virtual VA Claims Hearings

April 15, 2020 by Dan McCue
U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump has signed into law bipartisan legislation that enables veterans to virtually attend Department of Veteran Affairs claims hearings from home.

The legislation was introduced by Reps. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C, and John Katko, R-N.Y. in October.

Prior to the bill becoming law, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, which is based in Washington, D.C., only conducted tele-hearings from certain VA locations, meaning veterans had to travel sometimes great distances to testify in support of their claims for benefits and other services.

Under the new law, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals is required to allow veterans with pending appeals to appear remotely from their personal computers.

Cunningham said under the old system, veterans in his Lowcountry district in South Carolina either had to drive to the state capitol in Columbia or to Savannah, Georgia, treks, depending on where they lived in the district, that could be as far as 113 miles.

Likewise Katko said the cumbersome policy required veterans in his Central New York district to travel to the nearest regional office in Buffalo or Albany, a distance of up to 150 miles in each case.

“This adds a time-consuming commute to an already stressful process for veterans and their families,” he said. “By modernizing this process and allowing remote access to hearings before the Board, the VA Tele-Hearing Modernization Act will reduce the burden for veterans and their families.”

“[This] bill is not only critical for disabled veterans who have mobility issues, but is now especially important for every veteran as we become more reliant on virtual interaction amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Cunningham, who is a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Now, veterans will have the option to teleconference into these hearings from the comfort of their own homes using their personal computers.”

“At a time in which veterans across the country are relying on tele-hearings to receive decisions on VA disability benefits and other services, I am proud that the president has signed the bipartisan VA Tele-Hearing Modernization Act into law,” Katko said. 

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