Veterans (VA) Appeals Reform: Supplemental Claims
What is a Supplemental Claim?
Upon full implementation of Appeals Reform, VA proposes to amend the definition of “claim”, to include a definition of the term “supplemental claim”. Specifically, a “supplemental claim” is a claim for benefits filed by a claimant who had previously filed a claim for the same or similar benefits on the same or similar basis. VA is required to readjudicate the claim if new and relevant evidence is presented.
Supplemental Claim Lane
Under Appeals Reform, veterans will be able to opt in to three different lanes following an initial decision on a claim: the higher-level review lane, supplemental claim lane, and Notice of Disagreement lane. The supplemental claim lane allows the submission of new and relevant evidence. New and relevant evidence involves evidence that was not previously submitted to VA that tends to prove or disprove a veteran’s claim. VA will make a determination as to whether the evidence submitted is new and relevant and if so, it will adjudicate the veteran’s claim. It is important to note that while “new and relevant” is different from the previous “new and material” standard, the threshold for VA’s determination is the same.
The supplemental claim lane under Appeals Reform is the only appeal lane in which VA has a duty to assist veterans in gathering evidence to support their claims. VA does not have a duty to assist during the higher-level review process, or in appeals to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Overall, VA has a 125-day goal for issuing decisions in the supplemental claim lane.
How to File a Supplemental Claim
Veterans can file a supplemental claim after any adjudicative action including a Rating Decision, Board decision, and CAVC decision by submitting new and relevant evidence. Additionally, the supplemental claim itself must be filed within one year of VA’s decision in order for the effective date to remain the date of the original underlying claim. On the other hand, if the supplemental claim is filed more than one year after the decision, the effective date will be the date the supplemental claim was filed. There is no limit on the number of supplemental claims a veteran can submit.
Under Appeals Reform, veterans will be required to submit VA Form 20-0995, Veteran’s Supplemental Claim Application, in order to initiate a supplemental claim for VA disability compensation. VA believes this form is necessary to identify the issues that a veteran is dissatisfied with and determine the veteran’s eligibility to apply for a supplemental claim. If a veteran submits an incomplete supplemental claim, VA will consider the claim to have been filed on the day it receives the incomplete form, as long as a complete version is submitted within one year. By submitting the completed form within one year of the incomplete form, veterans can preserve their effective dates.
A veteran can also submit a supplemental claim with new and relevant evidence if he or she received an unfavorable decision from higher-level review. In other words, veterans are allowed to switch to the supplemental claim track even after initially selecting the higher-level review option. If this switch occurs within the one-year period following the date VA issued the decision on appeal, the veteran’s effective date will be preserved.
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