During the House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, “Is VA Ready for Full Implementation of Appeals Reform?”, officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs testified that VA is on-track to meeting its February 2019 goal for full implementation of Appeals Reform. Nonetheless, VA has acknowledged that a significant amount of appeals will remain pending in the Legacy appeals system even after the new system takes full effect. To address this overlap, VA has developed its Comprehensive Plan for Processing of Legacy Appeals and Implementing the New Appeals System.
The main goal of this comprehensive plan is to eliminate the inventory of Legacy appeals as quickly as possible while also maintaining timely processing under Appeals Reform. Importantly, claimants have the option to opt in to Appeals Reform at any point during the Notice of Disagreement stage, or after receiving either a Statement of the Case or a Supplemental Statement of the Case. If claimants would like to opt in following one of those decisions, they will have to do so within 60 days of the decision. However, it is important to note that opting in to Appeals Reform is an all or nothing proposition.
Appeals in the new system, legacy system, or both?
Under Appeals Reform, it is possible for claimants to have appeals pending in both the old and new systems. For example, a claimant receives an unfavorable decision denying service connection for PTSD on or after February 19, 2019. However, the Veteran already has an appeal for tinnitus pending in the Legacy system. The claimant may file an appeal for service connection for PTSD in the new appeals system, while continuing to appeal for service connection for tinnitus in the Legacy system. However, once a claimant has an appeal in the new system, the decision is permanent and he or she cannot move that appeal back into the old system.
Importantly, if a claimant receives an unfavorable decision on or after February 19, 2019 (i.e. the full implementation of Appeals Reform), he or she must proceed within the new system in order to continue the appeals process.