The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that a new procedure for appealing disability claims decisions will begin Feb. 19, 2019.
The new system is touted by the VA as a major improvement in the claims appeals process.
It is meant to fix the dismal delays veterans face when appealing the VA's decisions on disability claims. This new program was mandated by Public Law 115-55, The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017.
Why Does the VA Need to Change the Claims Appeals Process?
Previously, if you disagreed with the VA's decision on your disability claim, your only recourse was to appeal to the VA's Board of Veterans' Appeals, a process that could take years.
In fact, in its Federal Register filing, the VA itself said that, under the current appeal process, veterans who appeal wait an average of three years for a final decision, and an average of seven years if they continue their appeal to the board.
Under the new system, the VA estimates the average time to complete an appeal will be approximately two years less than under the legacy appeals process.
What Exactly Is Different About the New Appeals Process?
The new law created three different ways for you to appeal the VA's decision on your disability claim:
- A Supplemental Claim Lane. This is done by submitting new evidence to the same office that originally denied your claim. It will then re-examine everything and make a new decision.
- A Higher-Level Review. If you already gave the VA all the evidence you have, but believe it made a mistake or missed something, you can request a higher-level review that may, or may not, be at the same office that originally denied your claim.
- An Appeal to the Board of Veterans' Appeals. This is basically the same option as you currently have, except that you can now choose between three options:
- A Direct Review. If you have no additional evidence to submit and don't want a hearing, you can request the board to review the decision made by the original office.
- Additional Evidence Submission. Choose this option if you don't want a hearing but have additional evidence to submit.
- The Choice of a Hearing. If you want your day in court to submit evidence and testify to the judge, choose this option.
The VA says that cases appealed under the first two methods should be decided in four months or less. It also says that diverting a majority of cases from the Board of Veterans' Appeals to a lower-level authority should speed up the time it takes cases to be resolved.
This article was edited to correct the name of the new program.
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