In my previous blog, I covered the topic of evidence and what it means in VA claims processing. Since then, I’ve received a lot of questions about “new and material” evidence – a topic that seemed to confuse many Veterans.
During reviews of previously denied cases, I would occasionally run into claims where Veterans were denied for a second time because they were confused with what we (VA) meant by new and material evidence.
New and material evidence comes into play when a Veteran files for a request for reconsideration or reopened claim. It is not an appeal, and it is not a notice of disagreement. In both scenarios, applicants are requesting new judgement on previously denied claims. The difference is that in a request for reconsideration, the denied decision is still within the one-year appeal period, while a reopened claim falls outside the appeal period. Both are subject to judgement on the merits based on the submission and evaluation of new and material evidence.
When a Veteran files to reopen a denied claim, we (VA) outline the meaning of “new and material evidence” in our “38 U.S.C. § 5103 Notice” enclosure of our correspondence letter to the Veteran (see figure below):
New and material evidence, for reconsideration or re-opened claims, is based on 38 U.S.C. 5103 Notice
What is new evidence?
- New evidence is simply that – new! It cannot be information that is already in your VA records. This means it is not evidence you have previously provided to VA, or evidence that we have already legally acquired on your behalf (such as military Service Treatment Records or private medical records).
- VA doesn’t consider cumulative (i.e. information that has previously been established by other evidence concerning the same issue) or redundant evidence as new.
What is material evidence?
- Material evidence must be relevant and relate to an unestablished fact necessary to prove the claim. It has to have a legitimate influence or bearing on the decision, and cannot be cumulative or redundant. For instance, if you have a new diagnosis for a condition that you are looking to service connect (in which you were previously denied due to lack of a diagnosis) with a reopened claim – that would be considered material evidence that is relevant and has bearing on the decision.
Tip: Evidence previously reviewed in the decision that denied your claim can be found in your notification letter or rating decision. This may help you determine if the evidence you’re considering for submission is cumulative or redundant.
Where can you go for help?
If you still have questions, a VA representative or a Veterans Service Organization may be able to help.
Have a question about what “evidence” you should submit? Leave a comment below!
Mark P. Ledesma is a public affairs specialist with the Veterans Benefits Administration after having served six years as a senior Veterans Service Representative at the San Diego VA Regional Office. Mark is also a Veteran of the United States Marine Corps.