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VA Appeals Reform: How will it affect your claim?

  1. The names of the new and old appeals systems at VA
  2. Initial Decision vs. Rating Decision
  3. Statement of the Case (SOC) and Supplemental Statement of the Case (SSOC) in the Legacy Appeals System
  4. Claim vs. Appeal
  5. Lanes vs. Dockets
  6. Notice of Disagreement in the Legacy system vs. in the AMA system
  7. If you receive a rating decision BEFORE February 19, 2019…
  8. If you receive a rating decision ON or AFTER February 19, 2019…
  9. VA Decision Letters no longer include appeal forms
  10. If you enrolled in the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP)…
  11. How the Board will prioritize appeals under AMA
    • Can you switch your docket at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA)?
  12. How to opt in to VA Appeals Modernization (AMA)
    • What to consider before opting in to AMA
  13. How to stay in the Legacy appeal system
  14. Can you have appeals in the Legacy system and the AMA system at the same time?
  15. If your claim is remanded by the Board (BVA) under AMA…
  16. If your claim is denied at the Board under AMA…
  17. If your claim is denied at the Court (CAVC) under AMA…
  18. Reasons NOT to choose the Higher-Level Review Lane
  19. Reasons NOT to choose the Supplemental Claim Lane
  20. Reasons NOT to choose the Notice of Disagreement (NOD) Lane (the Board of Veterans’ Appeals)

Read the blog post here.

Video Transcript.

Brad Hennings: Good afternoon and welcome! You’re joining us here at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick. My name is Brad Hennings. This is Emma Peterson and Courtney Ross. We’re here today on at CCK Live talking about how VA Appeals Reform or the Appeals Modernization Act is going to affect your VA claim. Just want to let you know, please, if you’ve got any questions as we go along, leave those questions there on Facebook and we will attempt to answer them. In addition, if you’re seeing this later on, leave comments there on Facebook or reach out to us any other way via phone or via the internet or our website at cck-law.com. So, with that, the big topic of the day is VA Appeals Reform or the VA Appeals Modernization Act which changes the VA appeal system. That goes into effect fully on February 19th, which is this Tuesday, 2019. So, let’s talk a little bit about the new and the old appeal systems at VA — and this is of course typically for disability benefits. That’s going to be our focus today. So, what are the names for the new and old appeal systems at VA? 

Emma Peterson: So, for the old appeal system, what’s in place now and what’s been in place for years and years is going to be referred to as the “legacy system” and that will continue to operate for years to come as those claims get processed through VA. But the new system — we’ve heard new system, the AMA, Appeals Modernization Act, Appeals Reform. Those are all terms for the new system that’s coming up.

Brad: Okay. So now what is an initial decision and a rating decision?

Courtney Ross: Under the new system, when you file your first claim for benefits, the first decision that you get following that claim is what is going to be considered the initial decision. It’ll be a rating decision. Under the current system, or the legacy system, a rating decision is very similar to what you get when you file your first claim for benefit.

Brad: Okay. So now what is an SOC or Statement of the Case?

Courtney: Statement of the Case is another decision case that the Regional Office will issue. Normally, when you file a claim under the current system, you get a rating decision and you have a year from that rating decision to file a Notice of Disagreement to continue your appeal. If VA continues to deny at that point, they’ll issue another decision which is the Statement of the Case.

Brad: Now where does a Supplemental Statement of the Case fit into all to all of this?

Courtney: If you submit additional evidence or VA finds additional evidence after they issue the statement of the case and they feel that they need to address it additionally, they’ll issue what’s called a Supplemental Statement of the Case. So, another decision addressing that other evidence.

Brad: So, this is all in the legacy VA appeal system.

Courtney: Correct.

Brad: So why is all these important for our conversation today, these terms?

Courtney: So, these two decision points are going to be important because in the old system, moving forward once Appeals Reform goes into effect, when you get an SOC or when you get an SSOC — Statement of the Case or Supplemental Statement of the Case — are the two points in the legacy appeal system that you’re going to be able to opt in to the new system should you choose to do so.

Emma: Additionally, under the new system they’re going away. So, if you file a claim and you get an initial decision and you disagree with it in any number of ways — which we’re going to get into in a little bit — you’re no longer are going to get a Statement of the Case or a Supplemental Statement of the Case. Those documents are gone. You now are going to be going into different appeal lanes and if you actually go to the Board, different dockets there. But those two documents — Statement of the Case and Supplemental Statement of the Case — and the time from you have to respond those — sixty days and thirty days respectively — are gone under the new Appeals Modernization system.

Brad: So along those lines — let’s back up — what’s the difference between a VA claim and a VA appeal?

Emma: A claim is the first time you claim a disability or claim a benefit from VA. So you file the Regional Office saying, “I got this disability due to service,” or “My disability service connected and it’s actually worse than it used to be.” You file that claim. When VA denies that benefit in whole or parts — so they don’t grant you everything you’re seeking or they only grant you a partial increase — and you disagree with that, now you’re in the appeals process and you’re appealing that initial decision.

Brad: Okay, so now you had mentioned, Emma, lanes and dockets. So, Courtney, what are the lanes and what are the dockets and why do they matter in the new appeals system?

Courtney: Yes, so both of these terms are in reference to the new system. Under the current system, like we said before, when you get a decision you have one procedural option in terms of how you’re going to move forward with your case. That’s very different under the new system. Now, when you get your initial decision, you have three different lanes that you can choose from. The Higher-Level Review lane, the Supplemental Claim lane or the Appeal Lane to the Board. That’s what lane refers to. Docket refers to should you choose to appeal to the Board, you now have three different docket options that you can choose for how you want to appeal to the Board. You can choose a hearing docket which essentially, you’re requesting hearing with the Board; you can choose the direct docket which means you’re not submitting any additional evidence; or you can choose the evidence docket which gives you some time to submit evidence to the Board.

Brad: So, the Board is the Board of Veterans Appeals, correct?

Courtney: Yes, exactly.

Brad: What is a Notice of Disagreement and how is that different in the legacy system versus Appeals Modernization?

Emma: Sure, so a Notice of Disagreement in the legacy system where we are now until Tuesday is how you disagree with a rating decision that you get from VA and you have a year to file that document that starts the appeal process. The next document you would have received would be the Statement of the Case. You then file a VA Form 9, which is assuring VA, “Yes, I really do disagree and I still want to appeal,” and that would trigger you to be certified to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals where someone would review your case and your decision there. Under the new system, under AMA, the Notice of Disagreement gets filed directly with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. That’s one of your three choices after getting a rating decision. So you no longer have to file an NOD to disagree with a rating decision. You can choose to go into a Supplemental Claim lane, you can do the Higher Level Review lane or you can file an NOD directly to the Board. You don’t have to wait for the Statement of the Case, the VA 9… All those procedural steps along the way. You can just go straight to the Board.

Brad: What I think I’m hearing though is that there’s a lot more choices for veterans but it sounds like it’s a bit more complicated in terms of making those decisions. So, because of that we strongly encourage any veteran when they’re trying to evaluate making a decision to refer to their representative before the VA if they have one. Either a VA accredited attorney, VA accredited agent or a veteran service organization like our colleagues at the Disabled American Veterans, DAV, and talk to them about what the best way to proceed in your claim. Again, there’s a lot more freedom of choice in managing your claim in the new system but the consequences are more significant, we believe, if you choose wrong — if you choose incorrectly, so to speak. So what happens if you receive a rating decision before February 19th, 2019 this Tuesday. If I receive a rating decision today, for example.

Courtney: Any decision that is issued prior to February 19th, 2019 will remain in the legacy system. This is true even if it’s not appealed before the 19th. So, it’s the date of when the decision issued that matters whether you stay in legacy or whether you are going to be considered in the new system.

Brad: So, if I want to file a Notice of Disagreement on a rating decision that was issued today, how long will I have to file that Notice of Disagreement in the legacy system?

Courtney: You would have one year from the date of the decision but your appeal would remain within the RO’s jurisdiction and your next decision that you would get, assuming VA continues to deny your claim, would be a Statement of the Case. So, your appeal wouldn’t go directly to the Board as Emma had just explained wherein the new system where you file an NOD it would remain in the older system and remain within RO’s jurisdiction.

Brad: Let me change the circumstance, Emma. What happens if I get a decision on or after this Tuesday, February 19th. I get a rating decision. Now, what happens?

Emma: Now you’re in the appeals system so you have three choices. You have a year, still. So one year for everything but a year from the date of that decision to choose whether or not you want to disagree. So if you want to do something with your case you can pick to go into the Higher Level Review lane, which will have someone that’s sort of like a DRO or Decision Review Officer but not quite. A more senior VA personnel take a look at your case without the benefit of additional evidence. You can pick to go into Supplemental Claim lane by filing new and relevant evidence as long as you have within a year, or you can file the NOD and you file it directly with the Board. Don’t file at the Evidence Intake Center which is where NODs go right now. You file it directly with the Board and you have a year to do all of those three choices to preserve the initial effective date from when you initially filed your claim.

Brad: Now the VA has become very focused on using particular forms in the last few years. Whereas historically, they were not as concerned about that but that approach has changed. Now, there’s new decision letters that are going to be coming out of these rating decisions. Do they include these forms to go into these various lanes?

Emma: No, and that’s really important. So, if you want to pick — whatever lane you pick — you have to use VA’s specified form to pick that lane and it’s not going to be included with your rating decision. Now on the legacy system, oftentimes, at least for our clients, we’ll see that they’ll include a copy of the Notice of Disagreement form and saying, “If you want to disagree, please fill out this form.” But now there’s three different forms, at least, that we know of so far, that you are going to have to fill out. Those are not going to be included. We are working on getting those forms available on our website, cck-law.com. We’re going to get them up and running so if you need one, you can feel free to download from our website or again reach out to whoever’s helping you with your claim to get the right form filled out but you must use VA’s prescribed form. You can’t use the wrong one.

Brad: It’s my understanding that VA is going to put a link to go get the forms in their decision letters but they’re not going to send them to you so you will be required as a veteran or claimant, to go to that website and download the form and fill it out correctly and return it to the VA. That’s just something to keep in mind. That’s kind of a big difference between the legacy system and the new appeals system. Okay. So, let’s talk a little bit about RAMP, the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program, and what happens to the veterans who opted into that. Now if you’ll recall, RAMP was the pilot program to get us used to this new appeals system, Appeals Reform and a number of veterans — I think it was around 16% of legacy veterans — opted into this, as sort of a test for the new system. So, what happens to these veterans who opted into RAMP?

Courtney: Any veterans who have already opted into RAMP — RAMP will basically be moot on Tuesday when the new law goes into effect. So all the cases that are already pending in RAMP will now be considered pending in the new system. The last day to opt into RAMP officially will be tomorrow which is the last business day before the new law goes into effect.

Brad: But any of the RAMP claims pending on or after tomorrow are still going to be processed until the inventory is complete.

Courtney: Yes, exactly. They’ll just be considered part of the new system now.

Brad: Great. So, what can veterans expect at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals with the various dockets? We talked a little bit about direct review, evidence docket, and hearing docket. What can veterans expect and how is the Board prioritizing the various appeals it’s got?

Courtney: Yes, so I think this is an important point because they have specified how they plan prioritize appeals that are pending at the Board including the three different dockets under the new system. One, the Board is going to prioritize the Legacy Appeals first. The appeals that are still pending in the older system. For the three different dockets in the new system, the direct docket is the one that they have given an estimated goal for, in terms of getting a decision, which is 365 days. If you remember, the direct docket is the one docket where the record closes and you’re not submitting any additional evidence so the Board really only has to consider what was in the record at the time of the initial decision that you received. The hearing docket will be the docket that’s prioritized after the direct docket. So, under this docket, when you file a Notice of Disagreement, you have ninety days from that Notice of Disagreement to submit additional evidence. So, the Board will consider that. Then after the evidence docket, they’re prioritizing the hearing docket. The hearing docket is really the last priority. Again, I think this goes back to Brad’s point before. There’s a lot of different choices in the system but I think it’s going to be really important to understand what makes the most sense for your individual case and how long you might be waiting based on the docket or the lane that you choose. So just keep that in mind and if you know, like Brad said before, we do recommend that you seek help from advocates or representation if you’re not sure which lane makes most sense for you.

Brad: So, if you selected a docket you no longer want to be in, can you switch? Is there a difference between RAMP and AMA as we understand it — the full-blown Appeals Reform?

Emma: Yes, you can switch but you only have a certain prescribed amount of time in which to that which is…

Courtney: One year.

Emma: One year.

Courtney: From the date of the initial decision.

Emma: Right. So, you get the rating decision, you have a year to file that NOD to the Board and you select a docket at that time. Within that same year-long clock you can switch dockets. But you keep in mind that if you file that NOD, maybe two hundred days into that year, your window of time to change your mind gets smaller and smaller as you go up. In RAMP, I don’t believe you could change dockets.

Courtney: Yes, that’s correct. So that’s an important distinction because like we said before, if you’ve already opted into RAMP you’ll be considered in the new system but you do not have the same option to switch lanes.

Emma: Right.

Brad: So, if you want to opt into the new appeal system for your appeal — you’re in the legacy system, it’s currently pending. When can you do that and how do you do that?

Emma: There’s two on-ramps into the new system, Courtney mentioned at the beginning of our Facebook live. That’s when you receive either an SOC, the Statement of the Case, or an SSOC, Supplemental Statement of the Case, and the two points in which that might happen — especially for people in the legacy system that have been waiting a while — they might see an SSOC first because you might get one of those if the Board has looked at your case and they decided that the Regional Office needs to do some additional development. For whatever reason they remand your case back to the Regional Office, the Regional Office then makes a decision, it’s not fully favorable, you’re going to get and SSOC at that point. At that point, you can hop into AMA, Appeals Modernization system. Or if you’re currently in the process and you’ve filed a Notice of Disagreement, you’re going to see a Statement of the Case coming soon-ish and at that point you can opt into the new system if you want to. Those are the only two places in which you can jump in.

Brad: Let me again pitch the fact that these are complicated decisions to make. They’re very fact-specific and case-specific. We’re spending an inordinate amount of time with our clients trying to figure out what the best approach is for them including whether to stay in the legacy system moving to the Appeals Reform system if they’ve got a choice. So, if you’re going to do that, again, please talk to your VA accredited attorney, VA accredited agent, a VSO like DAV. Talk to your representative. Talk to someone and have them help you go through the pros and cons before you make a decision. That being said, what about can you opt-in after receiving a Board decision — A Board of Veterans’ Appeals decision in the legacy system?

Courtney: No, not in the legacy system. If you’ve already received a decision in the new system and you get a Board decision in the new system at that point you’ll have different options but just strictly under the legacy system you will still have to appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims to continue your appeal.

Brad: To continue it?

Courtney: Yeah.

Brad: Okay, and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, for veterans who aren’t aware, is an independent federal court outside of the Department of Veterans Affair and it’s considered an adversarial process so it’s very different. We strongly recommend that, if you’re investigating that, to seek out representation before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims because it’s different than just practicing and pursuing your claim at the VA. That being said, what about after a Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims remand? Can you opt in then?

Courtney: No, you still have to wait for that magical SSOC to appear so what would have to happen under that chain of events is that you get a remand or a win from the court; goes back to the Board. The Board then — either due to what the court has decided or the party decided at court — sends your case back to the Regional Office. The Regional Office does not give you that full grant of benefits that you’re seeking and an SSOC is generated. A lot of steps have to happen before that window would open up for you.

Brad: So, to sum it up, when is it too late to opt into the new system, the Appeals Modernization Act?

Courtney: After you’ve received that Supplemental Statement of the Case or the Statement of the Case if you’re not going to get an additional SSOC, it would be too late after that point to opt into the new system.

Brad: So, are there other things that veterans should consider before opting into the Appeals Modernization Act?

Courtney: I think one of the first things to consider is definitely like we said before, how VA and the Board is going to be prioritizing these appeals. They are going to prioritize the legacy appeals first. So, if your appeal that’s pending is already at the stage where you’re getting a Statement of the Case or a Supplemental Statement of the Case, you really want to consider how long it might take the Board to issue a decision on your case now versus if you opt into it where your case will be prioritized in the new system.

Brad: Can you go back to the legacy system?

Emma: No. Once you’re in, you’re in. It’s a hundred percent all in. You can presumably have claims in the legacy system and the new system and that’s one of the key things that I think people need to be aware of is that you could have claims pending in legacy at different stages and if you get one of those SOCs or SSOCs and decide to opt in, only the claims  that were covered under that document would go in and then you have other claims in  legacy. It might get very confusing very quickly to keep track of everything. So that’s something else to keep in mind.

Brad: What do you think the chances are that the VA is going to be able to keep track of all of this? 

Emma: Well, I don’t hold the highest hopes. I have some hope. I think that’s why all our encouragement to seek out help is really important because keeping track of deadlines is key in this system because of the way remands are going to work. So, while at the same time you could have things kind of bifurcate into the legacy in the new system, you also have to keep in mind that you have that year deadline to keep your appeal alive and keep filing things and that’s even if you’ve already made it to the Board. So for a lot of our  veterans, they make it to the Board of Veterans Appeals, the Board decides additional development needs to happen — a  new exam, more treatment records, something like that — and under the legacy system, the Board keeps that case under their jurisdiction so no matter what happens — well, not no matter what, but — if the Regional Office doesn’t grant everything under the sun, it pops back up to the Board automatically. Not anymore. Now you still have to file a Notice of Disagreement with that rating decision to get back up to the Board. So, there’s a lot of options and chances for deadlines to lapse so I think keeping track of where your claims are, what’s in legacy, what’s not in legacy, how long do I have for each one is going to become even more important than it already is now.

Brad: So, veterans and their representatives are going to have to stay very engaged in the process throughout, whereas in the legacy system, oftentimes it seemed as though cases or appeals went on autopilot. Sort of up and down without a lot of intervention necessarily by the veteran or the representative. What I hear you saying now is, “Hey listen, this is a changed circumstance and veterans and their representatives are going to have to keep a close eye on what’s happening to make sure they’re meeting all their deadlines.”

Emma: Absolutely.

Brad: So, if you already have an appeal in the legacy system and you want to stay in the legacy system, you think, “Hey, this new system sounds great but I’m happy where I’m at.” What do you do?

Courtney: Your appeal will stay in the legacy system unless you opt-in and you can only file an NOD and keep it in the legacy system until February of 2020 next year. So, again, if you get a rating decision before the 19th, you want to make sure you file your NOD within the next year period to keep it going in the legacy otherwise it will end up in the new system.

Brad: Again, it’s going to be a case by case determination as to whether you want to opt in or stay in the legacy system. We don’t believe that giving complete blanket advice is appropriate one way or the other. This is why, again, we encourage you to talk to your representative. Like we said, VA accredited attorney, VA accredited agent, VSO like DAV, our colleagues there… Just talk to someone who’s somewhat knowledgeable about this. So let’s talk about legacy in the new system. Emma, you talked a little bit about this, about having appeals in the legacy and the appeals system at the same time. So this would happen in the case of let’s say partial grants or — can you give us a couple examples?

Emma: I can think of a couple nightmare examples but, you know, it gets very confusing because the rules are different and it’s hard enough to keep track as it is. It’s not the easiest system and in my opinion, it’s not getting easier. This is important to keep track of where your things are. If you get a rating decision today and in you’re in the legacy appeal  system and you file your Notice of Disagreement right away, you’re going to stay in legacy and then if you file some claims next week — you file claims right now, a week apart from each other you’re going to be in two entirely different systems under two sets of rules but the other place where I see it happening has to do with, like I said, when you have the Board remanding several issues. Some of those getting granted and requiring a Notice of Disagreement at the Regional Office level and some of them popping back up to the Board automatically, like Brad said, on autopilot, because it’s just going right back up the ladder because the Board keeps jurisdiction over those claims. A veteran choosing, because they get a letter saying you can opt in now to opt in to the new system. So you could have claims going sort of in multi-directional channels and I could just see it getting really confusing quickly.

Brad: So, to give an example, you could be a veteran who has a claimed that you filed, let’s say, two years ago that’s been pending in the system claims for your knee and your back. Service connection for those disabilities. They go up the ladder to the Board of Veterans Appeals. They come back down on remand and as well as a claim for a service connection for psychiatric condition for PTSD so you have three claims. I apologize. Two of them, the Board grants, comes back down and the RO has to issue rating decision and those rating decisions assigning an effective and the degree of disability for the back and the knee are now in the new system. However, the psychiatric condition was remanded back for additional development and the RO continues to deny it. So, in that case, you’ll have the knee and the back in the new system and the psychiatric condition, PTSD which will go back to the Board which will still be in legacy.

Courtney: Right. Just to reiterate, the ones that were granted in the rating decision would be now in the new system because like we said at the beginning of this, any rating decision issued after February 19th is automatically in the new system so veterans don’t have an option to keep it in legacy or the new system.

Brad: So, let’s talk a little bit about if your claim is remanded at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals under the AMA. What happens? Where does it go next? How do these remands work in Appeals Reform?

Emma: Under Appeals Reform — backing up a little bit. The Board used to have a duty to assist the veteran so whether that be deciding, “Hey, your last exam was five years ago. We don’t know how severe your condition is now.” They can order an exam themselves. Now they’re going to look and see if at the time the Regional Office made the initial decision if there was a duty to assist error there. So, an error with an examination at that time and just in that window from when you filed to when the Regional Office made the initial decision. Was there a mistake in there? They can remand back for that to be addressed but it’s not going to be the way they currently address the duty to assist now.

Brad: So, if your claim is then denied at the Board, what are your options under the Appeals Modernization Act?

Courtney: You still have the option to appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and the timeline to do that is still a hundred and twenty days as it is now, but now you have an additional option where you could file supplemental claim within a year of that Board decision which will put you in the new system, the Supplemental Claim lane. I think, again we don’t want to give blanket advice, but things to consider in terms of which one might make more sense — if you get a Board decision and there’s new and relevant evidence that you want to submit for your claim, it might make more sense to file a supplemental claim whereas if it’s just a legal error that you see with the Board decision, an appeal to court might make more sense.

Brad: So, the advantage of filing a supplemental claim after a Board decision is that your effective date of the underlying claim will be kept alive, right?

Courtney: Yes, exactly.

Brad: Previously, the only way you could do that would be to appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, win and have it sent back. But now there’s another option to accomplish the same goal.

Courtney: Yes, and an option that lets you send new evidence whereas when you take it to court, you cannot submit additional evidence.

Emma: However, if you get a negative court decision under the new system you still have the opportunity to file that supplemental claim within a year of the negative court decision with new and relevant evidence. So there’s really sort of three choices. It’s a gamble of, “Okay, am I going to send the evidence now? Do I want a decision from the court and then wait to file the new evidence?” So there’s a lot of choices to make.

Brad: The good news there is that veterans have a lot of options to keep their effective dates open and even if they decide to appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, the stakes are slightly lower because they know even if they lose in court they can still go back to the agency, preserve that effective date and file new and relevant evidence.

Courtney: I think it’s important to remember, too, that you will preserve your effective but you have to remember that you’re filing that supplemental claim within one year of the Board decision or the denial at court.

Brad: Let’s talk a little bit about some reasons not to choose the various lanes that are available to you under Appeals Reform. What are some reasons not to choose this Higher-Level Review lane?

Courtney: I think one of the first things to consider would be whether you have additional evidence that you need to submit or not because under Higher-Level Review, which is a review by a higher-level adjudicator within the Regional Office, the record closes at the time of your initial decision. So you cannot submit any additional evidence to the adjudicator who will be taking a new look at that closed record and issue a new decision. So, if you need to submit any additional evidence, the Higher-Level Review option wouldn’t make sense for you.

Brad: Okay, what are some reasons not to choose the Supplemental Claims lane?

Emma: Sure, so it’s sort of the inverse of what Courtney just said. If you have nothing additional to add, it really is just a mistake you think or a legal mistake, the VA Regional Office missed a piece of evidence or you think they failed to apply a certain law that applies to you, a presumption, something like that. You wouldn’t want to file in the Supplemental Claim lane because you’re going to be in line with all the other folks that have new evidence that needs to be evaluated and considered. It might make more sense just to seek the Higher-Level Review lane. You can even ask for an informal conference with that higher-level reviewer. You can’t present any new evidence at that time, but you can make an argument and so that is certainly good and maybe a more expeditious option to pick if you have nothing new to add to the record.

Brad: How about the Board lane? What are some reasons not to go to the Board of Veterans Appeals?

Courtney: The three different docket options that you have at the Board give you the options to choose dockets where you can submit evidence or not submit evidence so that is a factor but might not be a deciding factor because you have different choices there. The one thing I think would be important to consider here is the issue that you have with the initial decision. So, if it’s a more straightforward issue, you might have better luck at staying with the Regional Office and getting a quicker decision in Higher Level Review or Supplemental Claim. So, the timeframe that VA has given as goals for issuing decisions in those lanes is 125 days whereas, with the three different Board dockets like we said before, the fastest that they’ve set a goal for is the direct docket which is 365 days for a decision. So, I think weighing the time period that you wait for a decision and also the complexity of the issues will be in court and for deciding if it’s not a great idea or the best option to choose the court.

Brad: So really, it’s speed versus complexity there in that if you have a complicated case or a complicated legal issue, your chances are better even if you have to wait longer to go to the Board of Veterans Appeals because they have lawyers and these veterans law judges who presumably would understand some of the more complicated issues but you might have to wait a while.

Courtney: Right.

Brad: Well, with that we wanted to see if anyone has any questions out there? Again, we thank you for joining us today. We can’t emphasize enough that the new system, we think, is going to have some exciting elements to it and some things are going to work well. We think some other things may not work as well. It might be a little messy as we get started like any new system is. So we again strongly encourage you to check in with a representative if you got one — a veteran service organization like DAV, a VA accredited attorney, a VA accredited agent. Talk to them. Have a conversation about how you should handle your claim in the new system whether you want to stay in the old system. Just get some advice, if you can. With that, are there any final thoughts, Emma and Courtney?

Courtney: I think that’s the perfect final thought and one of the most important things that we hope viewers take away from this.

Emma: Happy Valentine’s day!

Brad:  Happy Valentine’s day. Well, thank you all again. Please feel free to reach out to us on Facebook after the fact or visit us at cck-law.com. Again, Brad Hennings for Emma Peterson and Courtney Ross. This is Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick, CCK Live, signing off. Thank you for joining us today.

 

 

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