Veterans Appeals Modernization Act
Appeals 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.
According to the Veterans Service Organizations (DAV, VFW, American Legion etc.) and the VA, the new law intends to:
- Modernize the current claims and appeals process
- Include three review options for disagreements with decisions
- Require improved notification of VA decisions
- Provide earlier claim resolution
- Ensure you receive the earliest effective date possible
If the Rapid Appeals Modernization Process (RAMP) is any indication, the new law will come short of its intended aspirations. RAMP was launched in 2018 to permit veterans with pending appeals the opportunity to opt into the new appeals process and benefit from the improvements. We handled several and have mixed feelings about it. During the RAMP, we opted several of our appeals into the process. Many were granted and denied. We challenged the denials and got several overturned.
While the new laws and pertinent regulations may be complex, generally the new law provides 3 new lanes to handle appeals, which consist of the supplemental claim lane, higher level review, and notice of disagreement directly to BVA.
Opting into this lane, you need to provide new and relevant evidence to support your case. On average, this process takes about 6 months to get a decision. VA publicly claims that they will provide assistance in developing the evidence. We’ve found that the in generally, the VA doesn’t really assist with any additional development unless you set forth what you feel they should do.
Its more like appellant guided development. If you feel that the previous exam was inadequate, then its up to you to make the case that a new one should be conducted. This generally means that you have to submit an argument asserting the inadequacies of the examination. If they don’t agree that the exam was inadequate, they will simply deny the supplemental claim based upon no new and relevant evidence provided.
Another area of concern is the new laws intent to protected effective dates. Thus far, a majority of the favorable RAMP decisions grant the effective date as if you simply submitted a reopened claim rather than part of a continuously persecuted appeal. This leads to additional frustration as in order to correct the effective date, you must challenge it through the process provided either through another lane.