Appeals Modernization: Opting in from SOC/SSOC


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Veterans who have a legacy appeal pending with VA have an opportunity to opt in to the Appeals Modernization program’s decision review program. The new process provides more options and a faster decision without changing their date of claim.

The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (Appeals Modernization Act) went into effect February 19, 2019. By joining the modernized process, Veterans and claimants will receive more choice and control over their disagreements, and more timely decisions.

The new review process was validated during the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) pilot, which began in November 2017. As of August 1, nearly 84,000 claims have been completed and more than $410 million in retroactive benefits have been paid to beneficiaries.

To opt in to the modernized process, you must have a pending legacy appeal and have received a Statement of the Case (SOC) or Supplemental Statement of the Case (SSOC) within the previous 60 days. By completing the appropriate form and submitting it to VA within 60 days of receipt of an SOC or SSOC, your pending legacy appeal will be moved from the legacy appeals process into the modernized decision review process.

If you choose to enter the modernized decision review system, you are not “starting over.” In fact, since a primary benefit of the new system is more timely decisions, you will most likely receive your decision within a few short months (depending on your lane selection). Regardless of the lane selected, effective dates for any granted benefits are protected.

There are three options, or lanes, available under the modernized process:

  • Supplemental Claim:
    • Submit a VA Form 20-0995, Decision Review Request: Supplemental Claim. Check “OPT-IN from SOC/SSOC” box under Part II, 13 (see below).
    • This lane requires the submission of new and relevant evidence.
    • VBA will assist you in obtaining evidence for your claim and provides a review based on newly-received evidence.
    • VBA’s goal for completing Supplemental Claims is an average of 125 days.
  • Higher-Level Review:
    • Submit a VA Form 20-0996, Decision Review Request: Higher-Level Review. Check “OPT-IN from SOC/SSOC” box under Part III, 15 (see below).
    • No new evidence is allowed in this lane. This lane provides a review by a senior, more experienced adjudicator to determine whether the previous decision was correctly decided or should be decided in a different way.
    • You have the option to have an informal conference over the telephone with the reviewer to point out the error in the previous decision.
    • VBA’s goal for completing Higher-Level Reviews is an average of 125 days.
  • Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals:
    • Submit a VA Form 10182, Decision Review Request: Board Appeal (Notice of Disagreement). Check “Opt In from SOC/SSOC” box under Part III, 12 (see below).
    • This lane allows you to appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board).
    • You may choose one of three Board dockets: (1) Direct Docket: no new evidence and no hearing; 2) Evidence Docket: new evidence but no hearing; or 3) Hearing Docket: hearing with or without new evidence).
    • The Board’s goal for completing appeals on the Direct Docket is 365 days. Appeals on the other two dockets may take longer than 365 days.

The SOC/SSOC Opt-In Fact Sheet, is sent with all SOC/SSOCs notifications.

For more information about VA’s appeals modernization process, including relevant forms, please visit https://www.va.gov/decision-reviews/.


This blog post was written by the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Appeals Management Office. 

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Rolf L Henriks    

    In the legacy system, my DRO went rogue, ignored the law and based his de novo decision on what he failed to see in the record. He won’t correct his mistake. I filed for BVA appeal. I assumed the DRO was certifying my case for BVA. Instead, after waiting for over a year, he filed a new SSOC as his platform to introduce his new evidence and revise his theory for denial. I don’t see how a new adjudication system will help, when DROs are dishonest and don’t obey VA procedures and regulations in the first place.

  2. Tom Jones    

    I am in the legacy appeal system. Filed my NOD November 9, 2018, received my SOC November 28, 2019. Filed Form 9 Feb 13, 2019. Sent in additional evidence Feb 15, 2019 which included a DBQ, and two nexus letters. Got a letter from VA stating my appeal had been reassigned to a different RO on June 4, 2019. The appeal tracking system said if new evidence is submitted after November 28, 2018 the DRO will provide a SSOC before sending my appeal to BVA. They claim it takes between 5 to 13 months to provide the SSOC. Is that 5 to 13 months from the NOD or from the date they submitted the SOC? Also, I understand that the DRO at the VBA may possibly grant my appeal. Would that decision be made in that 5 to 13 month timeframe? I understand that VA’s goal is to complete all legacy appeals by 2020. What is the status of that goal?

  3. steven repetto    

    Hi Barbra, I’m a 30yr retired Vet USAF. One thing I can tell you is his pension benefits go with him unless he elected his spouse to receive them, which he would have had to pay into. His children are not eligible to receive these benefits.
    someone had to be notified when he died? usually spouse is first. spouse and children are listed in his file. I’m not sure where you live in Calif? this is the Veterans service office in my area. Try to have as much info as possible when you call;
    Wife name when enlisted
    children’s names
    branch of service, years of service(1980-2000)
    when he died.
    I know you said you don’t have SSN or ID, how about his family? brothers, sisters, mom dad? someone has his info. If you give them your SSN and your dad included that when he enlisted? they will find you. good luck with this.

  4. Nancy    

    My husband was in the Korean war he is eight five gave him thirty percent disability payes for is meds from va I think he deserves better the government should take care of these vets they should not want for anything war effects their lives for ever he is to old to go through a lot appeals va do right for all of them.

  5. T.Green    

    I just found out that I’m able to transfer my benefits to my daughter because I’ve separated from the military?! What kind of bs is that?? She was 5 when I got out so of course she wouldn’t need to use my GI bill then.

  6. Lynn A. Thiem, Chief, AMO Program Admi    

    A legacy appeal is a disagreement with a VA benefits decision made before February 19, 2019, the effective date of Public Law 115-55, the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (Appeals Modernization Act, or AMA).

  7. Barbra I. Nettles    

    As a daughter. Adult now. My Dad 21 yrs Army. I never received a dime from his death. HE had medical problems before retired. Took 3 yrs medical and full benefits
    They never contacted me at death and after. As his dependent from birth to 21 or
    22yrs. I HAVR NOTHING FROM MILITARY. NOT 1 PAPER. DO I HAVE ANY RIGHTS. ER AS BIOLOGICAL SHOULD HAVE SOME BENEFITS DEALT WITH MILITARY ALSO 22 YRS. HIS X WIFE DECEASED B4 HIM. HAD MARRIED MY MOM FIRST. WHAT THE HELL? WE ARE IGNORED AFTER YRS OF MILITARY DECISIONS IN OUR LIVES TOO. WHAT ABOUT US NOW?….WE DESERVE OUR LIFE’S LIVING WITH HEAVY RESTRICTIONS AND SEPARATIONS 22 YRS. HOW CAN I GET HELP AND MY DAD’S MILITARY RECORDS. I DONT HAVE HIS SOCIAL OR ID INFO? HELP MYSELF
    MOM. 3 GRANDS. I LIVE IN CA. HE WAS LIVING IN MEMPHIS TN AT DEATH. SURPRISED SHOCK OF MY LIFE.

    ANY SUGGESTIONS.? PLEASE. NO HELP WITH HIS MILITARY CAREER.

    22.

  8. stephanie sullivan    

    I have no faith in the claims process. I battled with issues, a simple surgery that I kept moving down on the list for and the first claims person I met with that made me feel like a liar. So I told them forget it, I quit. So good luck

  9. Jesus Gomez    

    I have my case for 15 years, in appears about 13 issue dont finish yet. All in remanded

  10. Margaret Mott    

    My husband was approved for SAH grant and ADaptive automobile grant after 7 years of appeals. The approval came in in July of 2018, we got the van but no work done yet on the house. Now the van people called saying the VA never paid them for the van! I think they’re just hoping he will die so they can pocket the 120,000. I am not a vet, but if I was, i’d Be appalled at how they basically don’t care about these elderly sickly men and or women who sacrifice their lives for their country.

  11. Margeé Morris    

    What about all of the Vietnam Veteran widows waiting for years to hear anything in their DIC claims for losing their husbands to GBM. A few win! Rest are waiting

  12. Richard Torres    

    I have a long time friend who served in country with the Air force and was recently diagnosed with bladder cancer. What test are needed to establish a claim at this time.
    Please Help and provide specific requirements and who to contact.

    Thank you,
    Richard Torres
    Marine Corps Vietnam Veteran

  13. Jerry Middleton    

    DON’T opt in VA will lose your paperwork, close your case and make you start all over again. Why do I say this? Because that is exactly what they did to me. Since opting in I have had to refile my paperwork 5 times. I am starting to believe that VSOs are in on this as well

    1. David W Gray    

      Vso’s have been in on it for years

  14. Kostanti Anthony Kruk    

    My case has been “pending” for over a decade. I am a Viet Nam vet who was exposed to Agent Orange. In fact, I was in country, in the field, the day it was dropped. This deadly chemical rained down on me and my men. There are lawsuit, which have been eon, around the world regarding the lethal effects of this chemical agent. Men flying the planes who delivered the poison has been awarded; those that were on the ground soaked in its deadly liquid, like myself, have been denied. Our country should be tried for War Crimes against their own soldiers. I want justice for myself and the countless other victims of this wanton disregard for the health of American soldiers.

    1. Charles    

      I am in the same boat but I was on the DMZ of Korea being sprayed. They are more concerned about PC crap. I have a blood cancer. Finally have a video hearing so they can deny me there also! But it will be quick!

    2. Lynn A. Thiem, Chief, AMO Program Admi    

      The SOC/SSOC Opt-in may help eligible Veterans in the legacy system get a faster decision by selecting one of the three Appeals Modernization Act (AMA) lanes. If you receive an SOC/SSOC for your pending case, I’d urge you to consider this opportunity.

  15. Scott nelson    

    As a disabled Vietnam Infantry Marine, my experience is that the VA is overly bureaucratic – nothing new here – but really trying hard 2 serve vets with new, improved service. And, they r making progress.Thank u VA, but pls streamline the process. Scott Nelson, Captain, USMC, 1966-1969

  16. RANDALL MILLER    

    I PUT IN FOR EVALUATION CONSIDERING MY CLAIM. SOMETIME LAST YEAR OR OR BEFORE.
    I GOT A LETTER SOMETIME IN MAY 2019 SAYING THAT MY REQUEST IS STILL UNDER CONSIDERATION. IS THERE ANYWAY TO CHECK ON IT?.

  17. Don Crauswell    

    Rapid denial system, the VA hasn’t changed anything for the better, still stuck in the half reviews they conduct of the data submitted. Also FAIL to follow the National Academy of Science reviews for Agent Orange exposed Vets. The Secretary
    has been sitting on Hypertension, Monoconal Gammopathy and Bladder Cancer for long time now, not doing a thing except waiting for more of us to die. The forgotten VETS Agent Orange exposed.
    This whole Rapid system is nothing but a way for the big shots at the VA to get big bonus’s (oh look how many claims we cleared) cause once its denied they can sprout off about the numbers of claims they have reduced, Their goal is to wear you down, make you quit and give up. I say every one suffering from an Agent Orange issue as those mentioned above file a claim contact your representatives and force these people to do the right thing.

    1. Lynn A. Thiem, Chief, AMO Program Admi    

      As stated in the video, nearly 84,000 claims have been completed and more than $410 million in retroactive benefits have been paid to beneficiaries from the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) pilot, which began in November 2017. Decision reviews for claims filed after February 19, 2019 under the Appeals Modernization Act (AMA) are completed, on average, in less than 125 days.

  18. PAUL W KELLERMAN    

    Please define the term “Legacy Appeal”?

    1. Lynn A. Thiem, Chief, AMO Program Admi    

      A legacy appeal is a disagreement with a VA benefits decision made before February 19, 2019, the effective date of Public Law 115-55, the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (Appeals Modernization Act, or AMA).

  19. Ronald Pfister    

    Taking me 42 years and about to sue VA over in service injuries always denied all claims!!!!!!!!!!

  20. Ssgt Frances    

    If they denied you on initial claim , why would they grant your claim on a SOC , or SSOC in the Appeals Modernization program… they just don’t want your appeal to goto the board . If you let your appeal goto the board in legacy claim, the Veteran law judges are more experienced in the Law then a Regional office decision . Just have to look at the BVA appeals decisions , alot of them are grant ,grant , grant Even if they grant partial , you still a winner on your appeal. If you go down the path of the Appeals Modernization program- what there decision will most likely be the same one they denied you in the first place …..and if you had other evidence , they will review it and say there Examiners , are more probative.. Think about situation before acting .. Good Luck !

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