There’s good news for disabled veterans who have applied for disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Congress recently passed the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 designed to make it faster and easier to navigate through the review and appeal process. These new laws went into effect in February 2019.
The number of pending VA appeals grew 350% from 100,000 in Fiscal Year 2001 to 450,000 in Fiscal Year 2017. The previous VA appeal process was considered to be too complex — hard to understand, difficult to explain with too many steps — and took too long — there were no defined endpoints or timeframes; the average wait time for an appeal decision is currently three years.
Three Lanes for Appeals
Under the act, veterans will now have three options, or “lanes”, for claims and appeals:
Higher-Level Review – Veterans can request an entirely new review of the original jurisdiction’s (AOJ) decision by a higher-level adjudicator within AOJ. The new review is based on the same evidence presented during the original review.
Supplemental Claim – Veterans now have the opportunity to file a supplemental claim to submit additional evidence and have a hearing.
Appeal – Veterans can appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, with three options:
- Direct docket: No new evidence submitted, no hearing requested
- Evidence only docket: Review new evidence but without a new hearing; new evidence must be submitted within 90 days following NOD.
- Hearing docket: Request a new Board hearing to consider new evidence.
Veterans can change “lanes” if they receive an unfavorable decision.
How Does The New Law Help?
The new law is designed to:
- Create a more accessible and understandable decision review system
- Modernize the current claims and appeals process
- Provide veterans with multiple review options for disagreements with decisions
- Provide earlier claim resolution
- Improve notification of VA decisions
- Ensure veterans receive the earliest effective date possible for their claims
The new law also allows veterans to maintain the original effective date of a claim if they submit new and relevant evidence within one year of the most recent decision and retain the services of attorneys and accredited agents who charge a fee when the AOJ provides notice of the original decision.
All decision reviews submitted after February 2019 will fall under the new system.
Questions? Speak to a Houston Veterans Disability Benefits Attorney
Are you a disabled veteran who is unsure of how the new laws will affect your claim? M. Stanley Whitehead is an Accredited Veterans Claim Attorney who has helped hundreds of disabled veterans and workers all over the U.S. obtain the benefits they deserve.
If you need to submit a new claim for veterans’ disability benefits, file an appeal or have questions about how the new laws may affect your claim, please contact the law offices of M. Stanley Whitehead.