Problems with the new VA appeals system are multi faceted, but many have complained about slow processing. A new system, expected to start in February 2019 could address these concerns. It is called the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act. Obviously, the VA is attempting to improve the system. We attempt to address some of its main features.
When will the new appeal system begin?
The date is now set for Feb 14, 2019 or 30 days after the VA indicates to congress that the system is ready. This means that the set date may not necessarily be the exact date it starts.
What options exist after an initial decision?
The veteran has several options:
1. request a higher level review “HLR”. 2. file a supplemental claim with new and relevant evidence. 3. file an NOD to the BVA. Interestingly, the NOD used to be for initial appeals and form 9s were for BVA appeals, but the new system does not have form 9s.
What is the deadline?
The deadline remains one year from the date of the decisions, which is the same as under the prior system.
What are the pros/cons of HLR?
You do get a new fresh look (aka de novo review) by a higher review officer, but the veteran cannot submit new evidence. If on HLR the claim is still denied the Veteran can file a supplemental claim or appeal to BVA within one year.
What are the pros/cons of filing a supplemental claim?
The VA will decide claim again if there is “new and evidence” received in the case. If the supplemental claim is denied it can be appealed within a year through various lanes including requesting HLR described above, filing a new supplemental claim, or appealing to the BVA. All options maintain original filing date for effective date.
Is there a BVA Option?
Yes you can appeal to the BVA still by filing an NOD, which was previously used to appeal after an initial denial, but now the NOD will replace the form 9. The specific determination that is disagreed with must be included in the NOD. There are 3 options under the new BVA appeal options:
1.BVA hearing at BVA in Washington DC or on videoconference, but no more traveling judges.
2. Submit new evidence without a BVA hearing
3. Can request no hearing with no new evidence.
If doing a hearing you can submit evidence at hearing or even after hearing. If submitting new evidence without a hearing must do so with NOD or within 90 days of VA receiving the NOD.
What are BVA appeal options?
1. BVA appeal to Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) within 120 days is preserved in new appeal system.
2. There is also new option to file a supplemental claim within one year. Both options preserves the same effective date.
This is a brief overview of the new system and although it is expected to go into effect next February 2019 this is not set in stone. We will keep you informed of any updates as they occur.