Appeals Modernization Act – Practical Steps
The Appeals Modernization Act was designed to give veterans more choices and faster decisions from the VA. Under the previous system, now referred to as Legacy, the VA was facing a backlog with no end in sight and veterans were facing a complex system with no set timeframe. This new system is intended to streamline the appeals system for faster processing times. So let’s answer some questions and see what this AMA system will actually look like…
What can I hope for in AMA?
Decisions under AMA are supposed to provide improved notice about the reasons for the VA’s decisions and your available options. Decisions should identify the issues decided on, favorable findings, what was not met, and the criteria needed to get the decision granted.
These appeals are also supposed to be processed faster (4-5 months for Supplemental claims and Higher-level review, and 1 year for Direct Review to the Board). It is not known how long the BVA Evidence Submission and Hearing lanes will take, only that they will take longer. But the VA intends to provide regular wait time predictions to keep veterans up to date on the status of their appeals.
How do I get my claim into AMA?
If you file a new claim today, or you did after February 19, 2019, it will automatically be in the new system and the new rules apply to you. If you received a decision on or after February 19, 2019, on your initial claim, you are also automatically in the new system.
If you have a pending appeal that is in the Legacy system, you can opt into the new system after receiving an initial decision, a Statement of the Case (SOC), or a Supplemental Statement of the Case (SSOC).
Note: If you are opting into the new system after receiving an SOC or SSOC, you only have 60 days from the date of the SOC/SSOC to do so.
What if I am in AMA but I don’t like it?
Unfortunately, you’re stuck. Once you are in the new AMA system, whether by opting in as explained above or by filing a new claim, you cannot return to the Legacy system.
How do I appeal my decision?
Remember there are now three options to choose from when you want to appeal a decision. There are also new forms to file, whether electronically or by paper.
- Supplemental Claim: VA Form 20-0995
- Use this form to initiate a supplemental claim. Here you will identify the issues you want to appeal, and specify what new records you would like the VA to help you locate
- Higher-Level Review: VA Form 20-0996
- Use this form to request a higher-level review, and identify the issues you wish to appeal
- Board of Veterans Appeals: Notice of Disagreement – VA Form 10182
- Use this form to appeal your decision to the Board and identify the specific issues that you disagree with. Here you will also select which of the three paths you wish to take (either Direct Review, Evidence Submission, or Hearing).
Can I change the appeal option I’ve selected?
If you selected one appeal option (Supplemental, Higher level Review, or Board of Veterans Appeals), you can change to another lane if the VA has not yet issued a decision. If you change lanes within one year of the decision you’re appealing, you will still preserve your effective date. So if you appealed through Higher-Level Review and then realize you have new evidence to submit, you can do so and it would be processed under the Supplemental Claim lane.
If you selected to appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals, and you select one of the three options to have your case reviewed by the Board, you can also change your mind. But if you change your mind, you have to do so within 30 days of the Board receiving your Notice of Disagreement form (or within one year of the original decision on appeal, whichever is later).
Note: If you selected Evidence Submission and have already submitted evidence, you cannot then move to the faster lane of Direct Review. In the same way, if you select to have a hearing, you cannot then move to the faster lane of Direct Review once you have had your hearing.
What happens to my claim in Legacy?
If you currently have pending appeals in the Legacy system and you did not opt your appeals into RAMP while that was still an option, you remain in the Legacy system. AMA will not bring change to the way Legacy claims are handled and processed. The VA will continue to work all of the appeals in the Legacy system together with the appeals in the new system.
If you did opt your appeal into RAMP, your appeal will now be handled in the new system and RAMP will be phased out.