According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), in fiscal year 2017, claimants generally waited less than 125 days for an initial decision on a VA disability claim, if they chose to appeal however, the average wait for a final decision was three years. In an effort to improve the appeals process, the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 was signed into law in 2017. As part of the new law, the VA has implemented new regulations to simplify and modernize the way veterans make appeals. The new regulations go into effect in February 2019 and all claims filed after the rules go into effect will fall under the new appeals modernization system.
The new system creates a new decision review process, which features three lanes that a veteran can choose. Choosing which lane to seek your appeal through depends on whether you are trying to introduce new evidence in your case, whether you think a mistake was made, or if you want a hearing. The new appeals framework features three lanes from which a claimant may choose when seeking review of a VA denial or partial denial of a claim.
Higher-Level Review – An entirely new review of the claim by an experienced adjudicator. This option does not allow for additional evidence to be admitted, rather it is for claims where you believe there was an error in the initial decision. These claims should be completed in an average of 125 days.
Supplemental Claim – An opportunity to submit additional evidence. These claims should be completed in an average of 125 days. The VA will also assist in gathering new evidence to support your claim.
Appeal – This is the appeals lane for seeking review by a Veterans Law Judge at the Board by filing a Notice of Disagreement (appeal to the Board). In an appeal to the Board, the new law eliminate intermediate and duplicative steps previously required, such as the Statement of the Case and the substantive appeal.
The VA created an infographic that helps explain the new process: https://www.bva.va.gov/docs/Decision_Review_Process_Slides.pdf
DISCLAIMER: The information above is for general informational purposes only. No attorney-client relationship is intended or created by this information. Each individual situation is different and therefore a formal in-person consultation is necessary before any specific advice may be relied upon as appropriate and accurate for a given situation. Please call Patriots Law Group at 301-952-9000 to set up a consultation if you wish to obtain specific legal advice you may rely upon. We serve clients anywhere in the world, with in-person consultations available at our Suitland, MD office — right next to Andrews Air Force Base — for clients in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.