Defining New & Relevant Evidence
New and relevant evidence is defined as existing evidence not previously submitted to agency decision-makers that tends to prove or disprove a veteran’s claim. It’s easier to think of this definition as a two-part test:
- Part 1: New evidence is evidence that has never been submitted to the agency (i.e. the Regional Office). To determine if evidence is new ask yourself, “Has this evidence been considered by the VA in any previous decisions?” If the answer to that question is no, then the evidence is new.
- Part 2: Relevant evidence is evidence that tends to prove or disprove a matter which is at issue in a veteran’s claim. To determine if evidence is relevant, ask yourself, “Is the evidence related to an element of your claim that was previously denied?” or, “Does this evidence show a theory of entitlement that the previous decision didn’t address?
Examples of New & Relevant Evidence
- Evidence related to an element of a claim: A veteran obtains a private medical record that lists ischemic heart disease as one of his diagnoses. The veteran has never submitted this record to the VA, and the veteran’s VA Claims File contains no records diagnosing him with ischemic heart disease. This private medical record would be both new and relevant evidence.
- Evidence showing a new theory of entitlement: A veteran filed a claim for depression. The VA denied direct service connection stating the veteran’s depression didn’t start in service. Now, the veteran submits a medical opinion stating the veteran’s service-connected low back condition caused his depression. This evidence is new because it has never been submitted before, and it is relevant because it shows a theory of entitlement (secondary service connection) that the previous decision did not address.
How to Use New & Relevant Evidence
This evidence comes into play in the supplemental claim lane of the VA’s new appeal system (AMA). The supplemental claim lane is unique in that this type of evidence can be used in connection with filing a claim, or used in connection with appealing a decision.
Legacy System (old appeals system)
- Use new and relevant evidence to appeal a statement of the case into the supplemental claim lane of AMA
- Use new and relevant evidence to appeal a rating decision (this rating decision would be related to a claim filed in the legacy system) issued after February 19, 2019
AMA (new appeals system)
- Use new and relevant evidence to submit a claim that has been previously decided in the past into the supplemental claim lane of AMA. In other words, use this evidence to reopen a claim.
- A reopened claim is when a veteran files a claim that has already been denied by a previous decision, and that denial has become final. A decision becomes final after the specified time period to appeal the decision has expired. For example, when the Regional Office (RO) issues a decision, there is a one year time period available for the veteran to appeal the decision. If no appeal is filed during the one year period, the decision becomes final.