- Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017
- What are the new options for review?
- Frequently Asked Questions
Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017
The Veteran Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 became law on August 23, 2017 (Pub L. 115-55). It is also known as the Appeals Modernization Act. You can read the law in full on Congress.gov.
The new law:
- Modernizes the current claims and appeals process
- Includes three review options for disagreements with decisions
- Requires improved notification of VA decisions
- Provides earlier claim resolution
- Ensures you receive the earliest effective date possible
What are the new options for review?
You have three options for review:
Option 1: Higher-level Review
Your claim is reviewed by a more senior claims adjudicator and involves:
- A higher-level de novo review (new look) of the decision
- No submission of new evidence allowed
- The possibility of overturning the decision based on:
- A difference of opinion
- A clear and unmistakable error
The reviewer, who identifies or learns of a duty to assist error, can return the claim to the regional office for correction. You or your representative can request an informal phone call to identify specific issues.
Option 2: A Supplemental Claim Lane
You can submit or identify new and relevant evidence to support your claim. VA will provide assistance in developing the evidence.
Option 3: Appeal Lane for Appeals to the Board
This option allows you to appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. You can choose between three options:
- Direct review: You have no new evidence and do not want a hearing.
- Evidence submission: You have new evidence, but do not want a hearing.
- Hearing: You have new evidence and want to testify before a Veterans Law Judge.
Frequently Asked Questions
When will VA start to offer the three new “lane” options?
These options will be available by February 2019. The law allows 18 months to fully implement. To prepare, we are:
- Issuing regulations and adjudication procedures
- Training employees
- Adjusting IT systems
- Revising forms and decision notice letters
What are the benefits of the three lanes? Will this make VA more efficient?
Yes. The new process allows you to select a review option that best fits your claim. Here are some examples:
- If you have additional evidence to support your claim, the supplemental claim lane is the best option.
- If you believe the claim processor made a mistake, you can request a review by a senior VA employee.
- You can also request the Board of Veterans’ Appeals to review your claim. This is an independent final decision.
These choices provide flexibility in the review process. The new process also protects your effective date for benefits, regardless of outcome. This ensures early resolution at the lowest level. The new process is also streamlined for efficiency. This leads to faster decisions and taxpayer savings.
What was the average wait time in the old appeals process?
On average, Veterans waited three years for resolution. Veterans who appealed to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals waited an average of seven years. The new efficient process leads to much earlier resolution.
What is the plan to address pending legacy appeals?
We are committed to addressing the inventory of legacy appeals. We met with stakeholders and partners to determine the best options. Then, we identified two opt-in options for legacy appeals. These options are included in the Appeals Modernization Act. We will continue to examine other opportunities for Veterans with pending appeals.
How does appeals reform relate to modernization?
The goal of modernization is to simplify. This involves focusing resources to better care for Veterans and their families. The new appeals process simplifies a previously complex one. This provides Veterans with more options to meet their needs and receive faster resolution.Appeals-FactSheet