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Court Of Appeals For Veterans Claims Faces Increased Backlog, Judge Testifies At House Subcommittee Hearing

April 16, 2017

A federal appeals court judge on Tuesday before the House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs testified that the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims is averaging 300 appeals per month and facing a growing backlog, CongressDaily reports.

Judge William Greene, the court's chief judge, presented statistics to the subcommittee showing that his court is among the busiest of the federal appeals courts. The statistics showed that 2,542 new appeals were filed in the first six months of fiscal year 2007, compared with 3,729 for all of FY 2006. In addition, benefit denials by the Department of Veterans Affairs' Board of Veterans Appeals increased to 18,107 in FY 2006, almost double the number from two years earlier.

Greene said that the court is trying to ease the backlog by recalling retired judges and moving to an electronic case filing system. In addition, Greene said that the court is considering presenting rulings without attached explanations in clear-cut cases. Greene noted that many of the cases presented to the court are complex and involve war veterans whose benefits claims were denied because their symptoms of conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder were not readily apparent. Greene said that the court's caseload likely would increase as veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan return and appeal denials of benefits.

Greene said, "Our present space is or will be inadequate for the type of caseload we are now experiencing." He added, "Adequate space is crucial if we are to make efficient use of recalled judges and any future full-time active judges."

Brian Lawrence, legislative director for Disabled American Veterans, told the subcommittee that the court adds to the delays by sending appeals back to the VA for further review. He said that about two-thirds of the VA's initial decisions are found to be in error by the court (CongressDaily, 5/23).

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