Veterans who have a legacy appeal pending with VA have an opportunity to opt in to the Appeals Modernization program’s decision review program. The new process provides more options and a faster decision without changing their date of claim.
The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (Appeals Modernization Act) went into effect February 19, 2019. By joining the modernized process, Veterans and claimants will receive more choice and control over their disagreements, and more timely decisions.
The new review process was validated during the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) pilot, which began in November 2017. As of August 1, nearly 84,000 claims have been completed and more than $410 million in retroactive benefits have been paid to beneficiaries.
To opt in to the modernized process, you must have a pending legacy appeal and have received a Statement of the Case (SOC) or Supplemental Statement of the Case (SSOC) within the previous 60 days. By completing the appropriate form and submitting it to VA within 60 days of receipt of an SOC or SSOC, your pending legacy appeal will be moved from the legacy appeals process into the modernized decision review process.
If you choose to enter the modernized decision review system, you are not “starting over.” In fact, since a primary benefit of the new system is more timely decisions, you will most likely receive your decision within a few short months (depending on your lane selection). Regardless of the lane selected, effective dates for any granted benefits are protected.
There are three options, or lanes, available under the modernized process:
- Supplemental Claim:
- Submit a VA Form 20-0995, Decision Review Request: Supplemental Claim. Check “OPT-IN from SOC/SSOC” box under Part II, 13 (see below).
- This lane requires the submission of new and relevant evidence.
- VBA will assist you in obtaining evidence for your claim and provides a review based on newly-received evidence.
- VBA’s goal for completing Supplemental Claims is an average of 125 days.
- Higher-Level Review:
- Submit a VA Form 20-0996, Decision Review Request: Higher-Level Review. Check “OPT-IN from SOC/SSOC” box under Part III, 15 (see below).
- No new evidence is allowed in this lane. This lane provides a review by a senior, more experienced adjudicator to determine whether the previous decision was correctly decided or should be decided in a different way.
- You have the option to have an informal conference over the telephone with the reviewer to point out the error in the previous decision.
- VBA’s goal for completing Higher-Level Reviews is an average of 125 days.
- Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals:
- Submit a VA Form 10182, Decision Review Request: Board Appeal (Notice of Disagreement). Check “Opt In from SOC/SSOC” box under Part III, 12 (see below).
- This lane allows you to appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board).
- You may choose one of three Board dockets: (1) Direct Docket: no new evidence and no hearing; 2) Evidence Docket: new evidence but no hearing; or 3) Hearing Docket: hearing with or without new evidence).
- The Board’s goal for completing appeals on the Direct Docket is 365 days. Appeals on the other two dockets may take longer than 365 days.
The SOC/SSOC Opt-In Fact Sheet, is sent with all SOC/SSOCs notifications.
For more information about VA’s appeals modernization process, including relevant forms, please visit https://www.va.gov/decision-reviews/.
This blog post was written by the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Appeals Management Office.