Appeals Modernization (AMA)

ROB LEVINE, VETERANS DISABILITY LAWYER

APPEALS MODERNIZATION (AMA)

In February 2019, the VA launched a new appeals system in accordance with the Appeals Modernization Act (AMA). AMA now controls how appeals are filed for all decisions issued on or after February 19, 2019. Unlike Legacy Appeals, veterans now have three AMA appeal options to choose from: Higher Level Review, Supplemental Claim, and Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

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HIGHER LEVEL REVIEW LANE

In the Higher Level Review lane, veterans request that the Regional Office issue another decision by more experienced VA personnel. The appeal is conducted de novo, meaning that the case is evaluated without deference to the negative findings in the prior decision.  In this appeal, veterans are not allowed to submit additional evidence, but they can request an informal conference between their representative and the VA.  The Regional Office will issue a new decision based on the same evidence of record that was available at the time of the prior decision.

SUPPLEMENTAL CLAIM LANE

Unlike the Higher Level Review lane, the Supplemental Claim lane allows veterans to submit new and relevant evidence in support of their appeal.  It is the only AMA appeal lane in which the VA has a duty to assist to help develop a case. At the time of filing, the veteran must submit or identify the location of the new and relevant evidence necessary to trigger the VA’s duty to assist.

APPEAL TO THE BOARD OF VETERANS APPEALS

Unlike Legacy Appeals, veterans can appeal their cases directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in Washington, DC following a decision from the Regional Office. In this type of appeal, there are three dockets that veterans can choose from:

Direct Review Docket. Veterans can select this docket if they do not want to submit additional evidence to the Board, and do not want a hearing before a Veterans Law Judge.  In this docket, the Board will only look at the evidence that was in the record when the prior decision was issued.  The VA has set a 365 day goal for issuing decisions on the Direct Review Docket, which is the fastest of the Board appeal options.

Evidence Docket. Veterans can select this docket if they want to submit additional evidence, but do not want a hearing before a Veterans Law Judge.  In this docket, veterans can submit additional evidence to the Board within 90 days following their appeal to the Board.

Hearing Docket. Veterans can select this docket if they want a hearing before a Veterans Law Judge.  Hearing options include a videoconference hearing and a hearing at the Board in Washington, DC. Veterans can submit additional evidence within 90 days after their Board hearing.

APPEAL DEADLINES

Generally, when the VA awards benefits, it will assign an effective date based on when the veteran filed a claim for benefits that resulted in the award. If an appeal is not timely filed during this process, a veteran could lose their effective date and hundreds of thousands of dollars of potential back pay.

To preserve an effective date, an AMA appeal must be filed within one year of the prior decision. In contrast, Legacy appeal deadlines are very different. The attorneys at Rob Levine & Associates know how to navigate this complicated and time-consuming appeal system. Don’t risk losing years of a retro of the benefits you deserve! Contact us today for your free case evaluation.

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