The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 went into effect in February 2019, changing how the Department of Veterans Affairs handles appeals in VA Disability benefits cases.
The new law was designed to chip away at the 400,000 backlogged cases now waiting for review and provide veterans with quicker decisions on their VA Disability benefits. The VA has hired 600 additional employees as part of the new legislation.
This new law and process for handling appeals doesn’t necessarily mean that disabled veterans will be approved for benefits sooner. But it could streamline the appeals process, which previously took between three to seven years.
Going forward, Veterans who appeal a VA claims decision have three appeals options:
Higher-Level Review: A more experienced adjudicator, essentially a higher-level manager with in the VA, will conduct a new review of the previous decision. Veterans who choose these types of appeals are not allowed to submit additional evidence to support their benefits application. The VA goal is to act on these appeals in 125 days.
Supplemental Claim – Veterans who choose this appeals option may submit new and relevant evidence, and VA officials will weigh that in reviewing the claim. The VA’s goal is to process these appeals within 125 days.
Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals – Veterans may appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, where their claims will be reviewed by a Veteran Law Judge. The new law gives veterans the option of requesting one of three dockets: a direct review, evidence or hearing. The VA’s goal is to process these appeals within a year.
Veterans who choose one of the new, speedy appeals options should be aware of how doing so could affect their claim.
Remember, a quicker appeal process does not mean that you will be automatically be approved for benefits. Your appeal could still be denied.
Under the old appeals process, veterans could introduce new medical evidence and paperwork at almost any point. Those options are limited now in an effort to simplify evaluations and streamline appeals.
Before applying for VA Disability Benefits or before making a decision on your appeal, we recommend contacting an experienced Veterans Disability attorney. We can help you gather the evidence necessary to make the strongest claim or appeal.