What is the Notice of Disagreement Lane Under Appeals Reform?
Under Appeals Reform, veterans will still receive a Rating Decision after every claim is filed. However, if a veteran disagrees with VA’s decision, he or she will have one year to appeal by choosing one of the following three lanes: the higher-level review lane, supplemental claim lane, or Notice of Disagreement lane. In the Notice of Disagreement lane, veterans can appeal their claims directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Previously under the Legacy appeals system, veterans who received unfavorable Rating Decisions were required to surmount additional procedural hurdles when appealing to the Board, including the filing of an additional form and subsequent VA processing. However, the Notice of Disagreement lane under Appeals Reform removes the additional steps. By directly appealing to the Board, VA is hoping to prevent a backlog of claims and significantly decrease veterans’ amount of wait time when it comes to receiving decisions.
Importantly, veterans also have the option to choose the Notice of Disagreement lane after receiving unfavorable decisions in either the higher-level review lane or the supplemental claim lane. In both cases, veterans must choose the Notice of Disagreement lane within one year of receiving the unfavorable decision in order to preserve the effective date of their claim.
Filing a Notice of Disagreement
When filing a Notice of Disagreement under the new system, veterans will be required to choose from an additional three lanes at the Board level:
- Direct docket. For veterans who do not want to submit additional evidence to the Board, and do not want a hearing before a Veterans Law Judge. In this docket, the Board will look only at the evidence that was in the veteran’s file when the appealed rating decision was issued. VA has a 365-day goal for processing decisions in this docket, as it is anticipated to be the fastest lane.
- Hearing docket. For veterans who want to have a hearing before a Veterans Law Judge. The only hearing options available to veterans under Appeals Reform will be a videoconference hearing and a hearing at the Board in Washington, D.C. Travel board hearings, held by Veterans Law Judges at local Regional Offices, will only be available to veterans in the Legacy appeals system. Additional evidence can be submitted up to 90 days from when the hearing is held.
- Evidence docket. For veterans who want to submit additional evidence but do not want a hearing. Veterans can submit additional evidence to the Board along with their Notice of Disagreement and within the 90 days following submission of the Notice of Disagreement.
Receiving a Board Decision Under Appeals Reform
If a veteran receives a grant from the Board, it must be implemented by the Agency of Original Jurisdiction. This could be a local Regional Office or the Appeals Management Office.
On the other hand, if a veteran receives a denial from the Board, he or she has one of two options:
- Submit a supplemental claim. A veteran can file a supplemental claim with new and relevant evidence within one year of the date of the decision. If the claimant does so, his effective date will be preserved.
- Appeal to the CAVC. A veteran can appeal a Board denial to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims within 120 days of the date of the decision. If the veteran receives a further denial from the CAVC, he or she can submit a supplemental claim within one year or appeal to the Federal Circuit within 60 days. The Veteran’s effective date following a CAVC denial would also be preserved.
It is important to note that under Appeals Reform, VA’s duty to assist will not apply to the Board. Therefore, the Board will no longer be required to remand decisions for the purpose of developing additional evidence for the Veteran’s claim. If the Board identifies an error in fulfilling VA’s duty to assist that existed prior to the original regional office decision, it will send the case back to the supplemental claim lane to correct any such errors. However, the Veteran will then have to file another Notice of Disagreement with the new decision if he wants to the case to return to the Board.