The VA’s New Appeal System
In February 2019, the VA launched its new appeal system through the Appeals Modernization Act (AMA). AMA now controls how appeals are filed for all decisions issued on or after February 19th, 2019. Unlike legacy (pre-AMA) appeals that have limited, linear options, veterans now have three AMA appeals to choose from: Higher Level Review, Supplemental Claim, and Board of Veterans Appeals.
Higher Level Review Lane
During this stage, veterans can have their claims evaluated by more experienced VA personnel at the Regional Office. The previous findings of the last VA Rating Decision are not taken into consideration — known as “de novo” review. While new evidence cannot be submitted, an informal conference can be requested between the VA and the veteran’s chosen representative.
Supplemental Claim Lane
Unlike Higher Level Review, new and relevant evidence can be submitted in the Supplemental Claim lane. Currently, this is the only stage in which the VA Regional Office has the duty to assist the veteran in developing their claim. To properly file a supplemental claim, the veteran must submit or identify new and relevant evidence at the time of filing.
Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals
Instead of selecting an appeal at the Regional Office, a veteran can file an appeal at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in Washington, D.C. A Board appeal involves a selection of one of three dockets. The direct review docket, the fastest of the three, involves a Veterans’ Law Judge making a decision based on evidence already in the record – all without a hearing.. Like the Higher Level Review lane at the Regional Office, new evidence will not be taken into consideration. The Board has estimated that a veteran could receive a decision within a year on this docket.
The evidence docket, in contrast, is a type of appeal where the veteran can submit new and relevant evidence for the judge’s consideration. This must be done within 90 days of filing the appeal. Lastly, the hearing docket provides the veteran the opportunity to submit new and relevant evidence as well as attend a hearing before a judge. This can happen either by videoconference or directly before the judge in Washington, DC.
Selecting the right AMA appeal and complying with the VA’s deadlines can be a difficult decision. The experienced attorneys at Rob Levine & Associates know how to navigate the VA’s new appeal system and get you the benefits you deserve. Call us today for a free case evaluation!