Every veteran should be aware of the changes implemented by the Appeals Modernization Act, or AMA for short. Passed into law in 2017, the AMA enhances and amends the process of appeals for military veterans and their loved ones.
The AMA provides those who served their nation with a new and revised framework for processing their VA appeals. These were procedural changes in the law, not substantive changes to the laws governing service connection, ratings, or effective dates. The objective of the AMA is to empower veterans, serve justice, and pave a path toward fair and expeditious claim decisions.
An Inside Look at the New AMA Appeals System
The VA disability claim appeal process was reformed in the summer of 2017 to increase clarity, cogency, and fairness. But it did not take effect until February 2019. The modernization of the disability claim appeal process streamlines the contestation of denied claims. The AMA appeals system results from a joint effort between the VA, Congress, service organizations operating on behalf of veterans, and politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Implemented throughout the VA benefits system for disability in February 2019, the AMA applies to all VA decisions made after February 19, 2019. It must be noted that requests to review VA decisions handed down on or beyond February 19, 2019, have the potential to be processed through the previous appeals system, referred to as the “Legacy” system.
The new VA appeals process is defined by several “lanes” that serve as avenues of formal legal recourse. It is a mistake to attempt to navigate through any of the lanes, also known as review options, on your own. Many strategic concerns must be considered when choosing an appeal lane. Consult experienced veteran’s law lawyers, and you’ll stand a much better chance of obtaining the benefits you need and deserve.
Let’s focus on the lanes that characterize the VA appeals process. As an example, the supplemental claim lane has emerged as quite a popular and effective avenue of legal recourse. The supplemental claim lane empowers veterans to submit additional evidence about the disability claim. However, the qualifier to the supplemental claim lane is that the evidence presented for review must be relevant to the disability claim and also be new as opposed to rehashed information used in the original claim filing.
The supplemental claim lane is the sole lane that the VA has a legal obligation, also referred to as a duty, to assist veterans in obtaining evidence that supports the disability claim. Veterans can preserve the same retroactive dates at the time that the pertinent and new supplemental material is provided. However, the caveat is that the supplemental claim is to be filed within a year of the initial Regional Office ruling, also referred to by the acronym of RO. If more than a year has passed since the initial ruling made by the RO, the claim’s original effective date is no longer applicable.
Veterans are also empowered to present claims with pertinent and fresh evidence after the claim denial from a Board of Veterans’ Appeals rejection. If the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, also referred to by the acronym of CAVC, issues a denial, veterans are legally empowered to submit their claim with new and relevant evidence to continue their pursuit of benefits.
It bears repeating that the clock is ticking. Disabled veterans are required to present new and relevant supplemental information within a year of the decision, or the effective date of the claim will not be preserved.
Notice of Disagreement Lane
The Notice of Disagreement Lane, also referred to as the Direct Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, is a lane veterans use to appeal the claim directly to the Board. The Notice of Disagreement Lane is presented directly to the Board following a denial issued by the RO, such as an undesirable decision resulting from the supplemental claim lane, as described above, or the higher-level review lane, as described below. Such alteration through the AMA system empowers veterans who courageously served their nation to bypass the RO review at the second level that was in effect through the previous Legacy system as described above.
Veterans are legally empowered to choose between three additional dockets at the Board: the evidence docket, the hearing docket, and the direct review. If your head is spinning as you attempt to understand and memorize the legal maze that is the VA appeals system, don’t fret. Help is available by reaching out to an experienced veterans benefits attorney. You’ll learn all about VA supplemental claims, the Notice of Disagreement Lane for appeal, and more without the confusing legalese.
The Higher-Level Review Lane
The higher-level review lane is a legal avenue taken by veterans who request that the RO provide a decision following a review by a more senior VA adjudicator, hence the use of the words “higher-level” in its description. Rating experts perform such an escalated review with years or even decades of experience reviewing the nuances of veterans’ disability claims at the RO. Such a rating specialist analyzes the veteran’s appeal and provides a “new look” at the disability claim.
The higher-level review escalation creates an opportunity to overrule the prior disability claim decision following a series of variables, such as the CUE. CUE is an acronym that stands for clear and unmistakable error. With a CUE application, the veteran is not legally empowered to present supplemental evidence to support the disability claim. Rather, the RO deliberates and considers whether the evidence at the time of the original decision being attacked was of such a nature that the VA’s decision could contain clear and unmistakable error.
From a military veteran’s perspective, the hope is that the higher-level review lane serves as an opportunity for closer analysis from a fresh set of eyes with a different perspective that leads to a more fair and just interpretation of the original evidence. Keep in mind that you cannot submit any additional evidence with a higher-level review appeal.
The Board Appeal Options Every Disabled Veteran Must Know
As noted above, there are three important Board appeal lanes/options/dockets of note for veterans who are appealing a denial from the RO. The hearing docket is designated for veterans who desire a formal court hearing in front of a Veterans Law judge. The hearing options now available to disabled vets through the reformed appeals process include a formal hearing conducted at the Washington D.C. Board and a videoconference hearing.
The evidence docket is designated for veterans who want to present additional evidence in support of their appeal. However, the qualifier to presenting additional evidence through the evidence docket route is that it does not present the option of presenting evidence in the form of a formal hearing.
This legal route empowers military veterans to present new forms of evidence directly to the Board through a NOD, short for Notice of Disagreement. The window of opportunity to present such evidence extends a full 90 days after the NOD is filed. We favor the use of this Board docket lane as it gives a claimant the most flexibility in developing evidence to support his appeal.
Finally, the direct docket is an avenue designed for veterans who do not want to present additional evidence directly to the Board. The direct docket also precludes the opportunity for a hearing in front of a Veterans Law judge. Such a docket examines evidence within the file available at the time when the appealed decision was originally issued. This may also be the fastest docket lane, but one that should be used when the crux of the issue in the case is primarily legal rather than factual. An example of a typical claim where this option is best would be an argument for an earlier effective date that does not require additional evidence.
Filing the VA Supplemental Claim
The submission of the VA supplemental claim can be a complex process that may benefit from the assistance and guidance of an accomplished VA disability claims attorney. Our VA claims attorneys are here to help you if you have questions. Military veterans are legally empowered to file supplemental claims after adjudicative action through the submission of relevant and new supplemental evidence. Examples of resulting adjudication include decisions issued by the Board, Ratings decisions, and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, or CAVC for short.
The supplemental claim is to be filed one year from the date on the decision letter sent by the VA. Otherwise, the effective date of the claim will no longer be recognized. The effective date shifts to the date of the filing of the supplemental claim if that claim is filed after a calendar year’s time from the initial decision.
We would be remiss not to mention the possibility of a military veteran submitting a claim that is considered to be incomplete. If an incomplete claim is submitted, the VA views the claim as having been filed on the date on which the incomplete form is received. However, the caveat is that the complete version must be turned in to the VA within a year or less. The effective date is recognized if the completed form is submitted within a year of the incomplete form.
The Potential to Transition Between Lanes
Every military veteran should be aware that he or she has the legal latitude necessary to submit a supplemental claim with pertinent and relevant evidence if a higher-level review results in the denial of benefits. In plain terms, this means vets have the legal right to pivot to the supplemental claim lane if the higher-level review does not yield the intended result. If such a transition occurs in the year after the VA’s issuance of the appeal decision, the original effective date is still recognized.
Veterans should also know the number of supplemental claims for submission is limitless, meaning the potential for a fair and just result ultimately hinges on the facts of your unique case and the quality of your Washington, D.C. veterans disability claims lawyer.
The Supplemental Claim VA Form
Though most military veterans understandably do not want to be bogged down by the minutia of the supplementary VA claims process, it is important to highlight the importance of VA form 20-0995. VA form 20-0995 is the focal point of the supplemental VA claim. The logic in the VA requiring that military veterans in Washington D.C. complete this form is that it triggers the bureaucratic process necessary to get the wheels of justice in motion.
The VA form 20-0995 is a new form added through the AMA, serving as a formal Decision Review Request for disability compensation. The VA uses form 20-0995 to pinpoint the specific issues a former service member highlights as unfair. The analysis of the VA form 20-0995 determines eligibility to apply for the supplemental claim as described above.
It is a mistake to assume you can complete the VA form 20-0995 on your own. Our D.C. veterans disability claims law firm is here to help you complete all necessary forms to expedite your claim’s processing and secure the financial compensation you need and deserve.
The VA form 20-0995 is divided into distinct sections, each of which is critically important to the filing and review process. Lean on our veterans’ disability claims attorney to help you complete the entirety of the form, and you’ll sleep soundly, knowing you have done everything in your power to pave a path toward the financial compensation you need and deserve for valiantly serving your nation.
For Example, the VA form 20-0995’s claimant identifying information section mandates the submission of the veteran’s:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Contact information
- Social Security number
- Type of benefit, be it a pension, compensation, etc.
There is also a section used to submit the information that identifies issues for the supplemental claim. Claimants are to itemize individual issues for additional review as a component of the overarching supplemental claim. The individual issues are to be included with the decision notice date in which the benefits for disability were initially rejected or partially approved.
The VA form 20-0995 also has a section for relevant and new evidence used for the vet to detail the new and/or pertinent evidence that requires assistance for presentation. As an example, the veteran might need the VA to access federal records such as medical charts or medical treatment information from a VA hospital. The claimant’s disability claims attorney will help itemize the names and specific locations of each relevant facility along with the dates of treatment to expedite the information-gathering process.
The VA form 20-0995 has a mandatory certification and signature section. Failure to complete this section means the VA will not process the supplemental claim. Every veteran should be aware that signing this concluding section of the VA form 20-0995 indicates that the information within the supplemental claim is accurate.
The Timetable for Review
The decision timeline for supplemental VA claims differs following the idiosyncrasies of each unique case. However, the AMA system has streamlined the supplemental claim process to hasten claim processing without sacrificing accuracy and fairness.
As of 2021, the average length of time for review of an appeals decision ranges from 70 days to slightly more than a year. Hearing requests average around 380 days. Evidence submission appeals typically take about 300 days to conclude. Direct reviews span an average of 170 days. High-level reviews typically consume two or more months.
There is a one-year window of opportunity established by the Veterans Administration for issuing direct docket decisions. Compare this timetable to that of the other legal options, and you’ll find it is the most expeditious. The Veterans Administration generally strives to complete the supplemental claims and higher-level reviews within four to five months or less. Those who have crunched the numbers find the Veterans Administration typically completes such claims in about 125 to 140 days. However, the Board of Veterans Appeals, or BVA for short, appeal decisions typically average out to about a year.
As a selfless military veteran who served the greater good as opposed to narrow self-interest, you are understandably concerned with the timely processing of your claim. Our Washington D.C. veterans disability claims law firm is here to expedite your quest for financial compensation, medical treatment, and justice.
We steer veterans toward the appeals status tracker to stay abreast of appeal status. The status tracker empowers veterans to quickly view the progression of an appeal and understand the steps necessary to expedite the process. The appeals status tracker also provides timely and convenient alerts for the deadlines that indicate action is necessary. Furthermore, the status tracker tool also previews subsequent events within the timeline for appeal.
Brave military veterans denied financial compensation after serving their nation are encouraged to keep hope alive. Even if your disability claim was originally denied, there is a chance that it will be approved after subsequent review. What matters most is that you place your trust in an experienced Washington D.C. veterans disability claims attorney to spearhead the quest for justice.
Expedite Your Supplemental Claim With Legal Guidance
The excessive bureaucracy of the VA supplemental claim process understandably flusters military veterans. Add in the fact that former service members are plagued by disability, illness, and potentially lifelong pain in the aftermath of serving their country. There is even more reason to rely on the guidance of an experienced VA disability claims attorney in Washington, D.C.
Our D.C. disability claims lawyer is here to guide you through the supplemental claim process, ensuring you adhere to the detailed instructions of the form, ultimately ensuring the VA accepts and processes the claim promptly. Lean on our experienced veterans’ disability claims attorney throughout the process, and your claim will progress through the new AMA system as seamlessly as possible.
Does the VA Supplemental Claim Process Make Sense for You?
Industry insiders have crunched the numbers, determining about three-quarters of military veterans have filed supplemental claims through the AMA system. The vast majority of veterans opt for this avenue of legal recourse after an unexpected rejection, or partial approval is handed down by the powers that be. However, in some cases, such an unfavorable decision results from insufficient evidence or evidence that exists yet was overlooked during the claim submission process.
For example, consider a situation in which a brave military veteran’s claim culminates in an unfavorable decision that states he or she is missing something as simple as an unbiased formal written medical diagnosis from an accredited physician. In such a situation, justice might be served simply by visiting the treating physician to obtain a formal medical diagnosis.n The presentation of such new and relevant evidence pertaining to the claim sets the stage for a successful appeal of the VA decision.
If time is of the essence due to financial insecurity or other pressures, do not lose hope. The VA may process your supplemental claim in a couple of months. Lean on our D.C. veterans disability claims lawyer during this difficult chapter of your life, and we will do everything in our power to enhance the quality of your claim and expedite its processing.
Every veteran should know that recognized legal avenues exist to expedite VA claims. However, specific requirements must be met for eligibility. As an example, your VA appeal process can be expedited by proving you are an octogenarian of 85 years or older, are financially destitute, or suffering from a terminal illness.
Schedule a Consultation With Our Veterans Disability Claims Attorney
Meet with our Washington D.C. disability attorney, and tell us about your unique situation. We will do everything in our power to hasten the processing of your supplemental VA claim. Reach out to our veterans’ disability claims law firm in Washington D.C. today by completing our online contact form.