VA’s Appeals Modernization Act takes effect today

New law streamlines department’s current claims and appeals process for Veterans


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Today the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it has implemented the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, which was signed into law Aug. 23, 2017, and represents one of the most significant statutory changes to benefit Veterans in decades.

“This is a historic day for VA, its stakeholders and, most importantly, for Veterans and their families,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “The implementation of the Appeals Modernization Act comes as a direct result of collaboration among VA, Congress and Veteran Service Organizations to deliver on Veterans’ longstanding desire for reform of the legacy appeals system. Beginning today, Veterans will have greater choice in how VA reviews their disagreement with a VA claims decision and enjoy timely resolutions of disagreements through a streamlined process.”

Effective today, Veterans who appeal a VA claims decision have three decision review options:

Higher-Level Review, Supplemental Claim and Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

  • In the Higher-Level Review option, a more experienced adjudicator will conduct a new review of the previous decision.
  • Veterans who select the Supplemental Claim option may submit new and relevant evidence, and VA will assist in developing new evidence under its duty to assist.
  • If Veterans appeal a decision to the Board, they can choose one of three dockets: direct review, evidence or hearing.

VA’s goal is to complete Supplemental Claims and Higher-Level Reviews in an average of 125 days, and decisions appealed to the Board for direct review in an average of 365 days. Under the legacy process, decisions averaged three to seven years.

VA remains committed to reducing significantly the inventory of legacy appeals. VA’s fiscal year 2019 budget included funding for 605 additional appeals employees, which VA used to establish two new Decision Review Operations Centers at the St. Petersburg, Florida, and Seattle, Washington, regional offices. The former Appeals Resource Center in Washington, D.C., was converted to a third Decision Review Operations Center.

For more than 18 months, VA has worked toward full implementation of the Appeals Modernization Act, but reform has been a goal for VA and its stakeholders for years. In March 2016, VA sponsored an “Appeals Summit” in which VA, Veterans Service Organizations, Veterans advocates and Congress worked together to design a new appeals system. The summit resulted in the drafting, passage and implementation of the Appeals Modernization Act.

For more information on Appeals Modernization, visit http://www.va.gov/decision-reviews.

Author

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The Office of Media Relations serves as the interface with news media representatives from newspapers and electronic media for the Department. OMR arranges interviews, provides press releases and answers media queries.

Comments

  1. Dennis Munden    

    I will believe it when I see it.
    The VA came back to me in 2016 stating that an exam they initiated for TBI in 2008 had not been performed by a VA certified medical person. (BTW that claim took nearly 4 years to finally close out which they initiated.) I was told I could be reexamined if I so desired, which I did. I was sent to a local Dr in Birmingham who had me stand on my left leg, hop a couple of times…TBI exam complete…REALLY? I requested a review by a DRO in 4/18…now I can no longer see the appeal via eBenefits, why? My first TBI file disappeared for 18 months in NC, now I am even more suspicious.
    For 24 years I have dealt with the VA, NOTHING, say again NOTHING is easy with them regardless of how much money is thrown at the problem.
    Good thing I am retired as this has become a full time job just trying to deal with VA stuff.

  2. Joshua    

    There is such a helpful organization Wings 4 Warriors (https://wingsforwarriors.org/ ) that your readers might like! Truly helpful!

  3. Kevin Edmond Loader    

    Does anyone know how long an appeal really takes? I filed an NOD in February 2018 and in May 2018 claim was remanded requesting C&P for ROM. Sheduled exam for June was cancelled by VA stating no examiners available. Finally in October 2018 I had exam. As of February 1st 2019 claim became decision ready. It’s been 10 months since remand.feeling frustrated. Any inputs on timelines would be great.
    Thank you,
    Kevin

  4. Larry R. Watson    

    Makes perfect sense. Why not use retired senior officers who have served in command,
    as line officers as part of the team reviewing the claim filed by individual. Teams should be
    selected based on specificy of the claim.
    With the reduction of purposed health care postings in military units, those choosing to retire
    would have a viable new second career path.

  5. Blaine G Love    

    I am a Vietnam Veteran and In December 2011, I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer with a PSA of 53.1, which is very high. I was given a biopsy, body scan and a CT scan and scheduled for 7 weeks of radiation which was completed in early March 2012.
    My PSA did go down and was put on a hormone depravation therapy for 3 years. I have had several third party exams and remained at 100% disability.
    In December 2017, I was dropped from 100% to 20% for Prostate cancer despite letter from attending physician that I am a high risk and will have to be monitored on a wait and see schedule for life. As it turned out, my PSA started rising and with my last PSA reading on February 7, 2019, was at 3.29. The safe range is 0-4. I have been re-scheduled from 6 month check-ups to 3 month check-ups to monitor this.
    My Oncologist and Urologist agreed that if this gets much higher, I will have to be put on the hormone depravation again.
    This is a permanent disease in me and needs to be treated regularly and therefore should be back at 100% rating.
    I got on a chat line with eBenefits and was told that the normal wait list averages 477 days. I can’t believe it should take that long. Please advise.

  6. Josh    

    What about those of us that recently submitted a NOD to a DRO prior to this? I only had two options, a DRO or a traditional appeal. Are we going to be grandfathered in or are we stuck?

  7. Thomas Hundley    

    On 1/8/2019 I submitted a complaint/alert to VA’s OIG via their online procedure. I have not even received a confirmation of submitting the referral.

    The BVA created their own medical opinion/diagnosis using a medical dictionary in their Office to reject my nexis from expert medical personnel. Their medical opinion/conclusion was WRONG.

    How do I get someone to talk to me?

  8. Thomas Hundley    

    PLEASE HELP ME:

    On February 7, 2019 – 3, 941 days after I filed a Claim with VA on April 24, 2008, I received a letter, dated 02/01/2019, from the Department Of Veterans’ Appeals, Washington DC. advising me that I had just 90 days from that date of the letter (seven days of which are already GONE) to respond and to submit any additional argument or evidence in support of my claim.

    For three thousand, nine hundred, forty one days I waited and waited and waited for VA to give me a crumb of help, advice, information, etc. I followed every path they sent me down, met every deadline they gave me, contacted people from all over the Government, was featured in a front page article in the Sunday newspapers in Roanoke, Va and Hickory, NC., and I a Virginia State Lawyer the power of attorney to represent me on behalf of my appeal.

    The letter I received today says:

    “On January 23, 2018, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) issued a decision which you appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (Court). On November 26, 2018, the Court issued a decision that remanded (sent back) your case to the Board for readjudication and issuance of a new decision.”

    WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

    * The purpose of this letter is to let you know that your case has been received by the Board following the issuance of the Court’s remand decision.

    * Copies of the Court’s order and other pertinent pleadings and briefs filed with the Court will be associated with your Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) claims file for review and consideration by the assigned Veterans Law Judge

    * You have the opportunity, if desired, to submit additional argument and/or evidence in support of your appeal before the Board proceeds with readjudication.

    WHAT YOU NEED TO DO

    * If you elect to submit any additional argument or evidence , it must be submitted to this office within 90 days of the date of this letter.

    Several other options concerning my use or denying of the 90 days deadline………….

    MY DILEMMA.

    I have only 70 days left to beg the VA to give me copies of the information on the “Court’s order and other pertinent pleadings and briefs filed with the Court”

    How can I address, comment, correct, deny, whatever this letter is about IF I HAVE NOT SEEN WHAT IT IS TALKING ABOUT?

    3941 days (10 years 9 months 13 days) and I have yet to hear, “Hi, Veteran. We are here to help you. Let’s talk about it”

    Question: Does VA have any idea that their clerks used a dictionary to obtain definitions of two tumors and used those twenty or so words, developed a medical opinion that invalidated the nexus and medical opinions I submitted with my claims? If VA has the power to develop by pure creation of words, a medical opinion that becomes the basis by which a claim is denied, what in God’s name does VA want from me now? I am drowning in this heartbreak and confusion. Am I on my own to fight/beg/correspond with VA on this matter?

    https://www.va.gov/vetapp18/files1/1803967.txt

    US Court of Veterans Appeals Docket No. 18-1833

    1. Pat Kerr    

      If u contact both your legislators asking for help VA only has 48 hours to respond as I understand.

  9. Greg    

    If you want to cut down on the number of appeals and help the veteran if they want to submit an appeal, how about including the veterans c-file with their decision. This way the veteran can 1) see the reasoning behind the decision, 2) reduces the amount of time a veteran has to spend forming an appeal because they won’t have to request and wait for their c-file to be returned.

    The rater has everything right there when a decision is made, so send the c-file with the decision!

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