How has the VA Improvement and Modernization Act Changed the Appeals Process?

How has the VA disability appeals process changed since reform legislation was passed in 2017?

Note: An updated version of this article reflecting the latest changes in the VA disability benefits claims process is available.

Since Congress passed the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act in 2017, the Veterans Administration has undergone a significant change. 

This legislation altered the previous system with the goal of improving the overall experience of those filing for an appeal. How has the VA disability appeal timeline changed since the VA has undergone this transformation?

What’s Changed About The Claims Process?

You may be familiar with the initial claims process, which involves the Veterans Association receiving and reviewing your claim. 

From there, the VA will request evidence from the sources you’ve provided in your claim, review the evidence, and prepare to make a decision. 

How long this process takes depends on the type of claim you’ve filed, how complex your disability is, and the number of disabilities you’ve claimed.

The Veterans Association will issue a rating decision when you’ve filed a new claim as a veteran. This rating will contain the issues that were decided, a summary of the evidence that was considered, and a summary of the applicable laws and regulations.

In addition to this information, the VA will also include in their rating the following information:

  • Indicated evidence that was favorable to the claimant.
  • An explanation of why the VA has denied your claim.
  • An explanation of how the VA has reached their decision to deny your claim.
  • An explanation of the criteria the claimant needs to grant service connection or to receive higher compensation.

What Can I Do If I Disagree With The VA’s Decision?

You have up to one year to take action once you’ve received your VA rating. You can appeal for a higher review of your claim at the regional office (RO) and file new evidence if you disagree with the rating the VA has given you.

Additionally, you can file a notice of disagreement (NOD) to take your claim to the Board of Veterans Appeals. By seeking out a higher level review, you’re given another opinion on the decision of the VA regional office.

When seeking higher level review, you won’t be able to submit additional evidence for higher compensation and you won’t be able to request a hearing. 

You have up to a year to file a supplemental claim if the higher level view isn’t in your favor. A supplemental claim is when you file any new evidence. After you’ve filed your supplemental claim, the VA will make a decision within 125 days.

In the event you’re unsatisfied with the adjudicator’s decision on your claim, you can either submit another supplemental claim within a year, request a higher level review on the decision, or appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals.

Where Do I Appeal From Here? The Board Of Veterans Appeals

Once you’ve submitted an Notice of Disagreement to the Board of Veterans Appeals, there are three directions in which you can go. 

  1. You can either file an appeal to the BVA that’s ready for a decision without submitting any further evidence.
  2. You can request a hearing with the BVA and submit additional evidence for your disability/disabilities.
  3. You can request to submit additional evidence for your disability/disabilities without requesting a hearing with the BVA.

After you’ve received a decision from the BVA, you have the ability to file another supplemental claim within a year’s time if you disagree with the decision. Within 120 days you have the ability to file an appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

Cassandra Crosby is a Veteran’s Claims Advocate for Hill & Ponton. She has over 20 years of experience in the management of non-profits programs specializing in Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Victim Services.