Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie just announced a new initiative that will place Purple Heart recipients at the "front of the line" for benefits claims.
"I will be announcing that for those who hold the Purple Heart, the recognition of wounds taken in battle, we will now place those who hold that decoration at the front of the line when it comes to claims before the veterans department," Wilkie said during a House Appropriations Committee VA general oversight hearing.
Previously, Purple Heart awardees fell in VA priority Group 3 alongside former Prisoners of War and Medal of Honor recipients.
This initiative is part of the Appeals Modernization Act — a move intended to make the appeals process more streamlined and give veterans more options. According to Wilkie, the VA is on schedule to complete all the mandated requirements of the act.
"We are on schedule to fulfill the mandate of the Appeals Modernization Act," Wilkie said in the hearing.
The implementation of those mandated changes went into effect on Feb. 19 after months of planning.
“VA has been preparing for full implementation of the Appeals Modernization Act over the past 18 months,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement announcing the change in rules last month. “Our staff has worked diligently, particularly in the last few weeks, to ensure the new, streamlined process is available to Veterans in February.”