On August 23, 2017, the Veteran Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (Pub L. 115-55) was enacted, often referred to as the Appeals Modernization Act (AMA). For a complete understanding, you can explore the legislation on Congress.gov.
This groundbreaking law:
- Revamps the claims and appeals procedure
- Offers three distinct decision review choices for disagreements regarding benefits decisions
- Mandates enhanced communication on VA decisions
- Facilitates swifter claim resolutions
- Guarantees the earliest possible effective date
Appeal Review Options
All VA rating decisions must be appealed within one year of the date of the notification letter. You now have three different options for review:
Higher-Level Review (HLR)
Your claim is reviewed by a Decision Review Officer (DRO) and involves:
- A higher-level de novo review (new look) of the decision
- No submission of new evidence allowed
- The possibility of overturning the decision based on
- A difference of opinion
- A clear and unmistakable error
The DRO, who identifies or learns of a duty to assist error, can return the claim to the regional office (RO) for correction.
At the time of application, you or your representative can request an informal phone conference (IC) to identify errors of law or fact in the decision.
Supplemental Claim (SCL)
You may submit or identify new and relevant evidence to support your claim. VA will provide assistance in developing the evidence. It is usually the quickest way to have new and relevant evidence reviewed.
Examples of new and relevant evidence include:
- Service Treatment Records (STRs)
- Private Medical Records (PMRs)
- Military Personnel Records (MPRs)
- Medical Nexus Opinions
- Lay (Buddy) Statements
- Ship Deck Logs
Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA)
Filing a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) allows you to appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. You can choose between three options (also known as lanes):
- Direct Review: no additional evidence can be submitted, but additional legal argument is allowed
- Evidence Submission with Review: additional evidence and argument can be submitted. A supplemental claim may be a quicker way to have evidence reviewed
- Hearing with a Veterans Law Judge (VLJ): additional evidence may be submitted within 90 days after the hearing, and there are three hearing options:
- Central Office Hearing: attend in person in Washington DC
- Videoconference Hearing: participate at a Regional Office
- Virtual Telehearing: participate using an internet-connected device (computer, iPhone). Requires an email address for Veteran and Representative
Know Your Appeal Rights
Know your rights under the Appeals Modernization Act and don’t take “No” for an answer! Contact us today for a free consultation!