Brian Hill: Hello, and welcome to the Hill and Ponton video blog. I’m Brian Hill here with Carol Ponton. Today we want to talk to you about a new system. It’s called AMA.. It’s the new way that the VA has to appeal your cases, and we’ve seen some minefields, seen some problems in the system. And we want to give you some important information about it. So we’ll be right back. Stay with us.
Brian Hill: Carol, I know that this is a new system and, frankly, it’s a system where the information from the VA about the system has been slow coming out, and that the VA is doing strange things. But what has been your experience with the AMA?
Carol Ponton: Well, I think that exactly what you’re saying. We go twice a year to a seminar and while we’re there we have a chance to ask the VA how this works. And they are often unsure exactly how it works. And we know that the system is set up so that you have three ways you can appeal. You can actually go back as if it was a new claim and file and ask them to look at the case all over again. You have to have new medical evidence. And then the second thing you can do is ask for higher review. And both of these are at the Regional Office. Or you can ask to go to the Board of Veterans’ Appeal. So first of all, you have the dilemma of which one do you choose?
Brian Hill: Yeah. And assuming that you choose the supplemental lane at the Regional Office, we’re getting letters back from them that probably… Generally when you get a decision by the VA, it’s clear that it’s a decision. It’s clear because they tell you you have the right to appeal. But if you don’t go into the supplemental lane right, all you get back from him is a letter saying, “You haven’t done it right. You haven’t given us any new evidence.”
Carol Ponton: What’s happens then?
Brian Hill: That’s it. If you-
Carol Ponton: So what should they do? That’s-
Brian Hill: If you don’t respond to that, if you don’t give them new evidence and you let your year run, then your appeal time is over. We spent years working in the old system, and we knew the tricks and we knew the different ways. But there’s a whole lot of minefields in this new system that we’re just not familiar with yet, and we’re working through them. But it’s very important that you understand what you’re doing before you file these appeals.
Carol Ponton: Because that’s exactly what we were seeing. We would file a supplemental and then we’d get a letter saying there’s no additional evidence. Well, we figured, “Okay, we’ll get evidence in there.” But we didn’t think that there’s a timeline running. So even we were not, until we all talked about it, aware that this is an area that you need to be aware of. Don’t just sit there and let your claim… What do you think they should do?
Brian Hill: Well, I really think that the answer to that is that you need to have new evidence. And it’s not just medical evidence. It can be as much as a statement by the veteran, as long as the statement provides new evidence that hasn’t been in the file before. And you need to make sure that some new evidence is in the file to force-
Carol Ponton: So new evidence as to how it was service connected, if that’s the issue. Or new evidence as to how your condition is much worse if that’s the issue.
Brian Hill: Right. Right. And that forces the VA to make a decision so that you have the right to appeal that decision. Our concern is that if you get this letter and just put it aside, you’re going to lose your right to appeal. So that’s the real issue here. And the other thing that we’re concerned about is if you take the option of going to the Board, there are some timeframes there that we understand now are going to be strictly enforced by the Board. In the past we have been able to go to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in Washington and generally put evidence into the record up until the time that the Board was ready to make a decision.
Carol Ponton: But you can’t do that-
Brian Hill: Now that’s not true.
Carol Ponton: You have three choices. One is that you have the Board look at the case as it was before the Regional Office… That means you you may add something, but they’re not going to look at it. That’s very important. Here are your three choices. Direct appeal, 90 days to submit evidence or requests for a hearing. So if you pick direct appeal, that means nothing that you send in after the decision was made at the Regional Office is going to be considered by the Board. If you pick 90 days, you have only 90 days from when you file that appeal to get the evidence into the Board. I would say about the hearing, when we were at the conference last, the head judge told us that if you ask for a hearing, you may a very long time. So we discourage people from asking for a hearing because of that.
Brian Hill: Well, thank you for joining us today at the Hill and Ponton video blog, and we’ll look forward to talking with you again.