VA Rolls out New Appeals Process

Effective February 19, 2019, all new appeals filed with VA will be processed under the modernized appeals system. Enacted in August, 2017, the Appeals Modernization Act provides three appellate options: supplemental claim, higher-level review, or appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals. Currently, veterans wait an average of five years from the date an appeal is filed for a decision from the Board of Veterans Appeals. VA aims to significantly reduce this wait time by providing decisions on supplemental claims and higher level reviews within an average of 125 days, and decisions from the Board of Veterans Appeals in a year.


Over the past year VA has encouraged participation in their pilot program called the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP). Veterans advocates have observed that the results of the RAMP program have been mixed, and although many remain hopeful their optimism has been tempered by the results observed to date. Empirically speaking, the RAMP program was successful in reducing wait times. However, advocates have anecdotally reported an increase in decisions in which the agency has failed to review and consider the evidence of record and soundly apply the law. Accordingly, the jury is out with regard to whether the AMA will bring real relief to the flawed veterans benefits system, or amount to yet another broken promise.

Are you a veteran for purposes of VA benefits?

Are you a veteran for purposes of VA benefits?

To the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the word veteran has a very specific meaning. The U.S. government defines the word veteran at 38 U.S.C. § 101(2). This provision states that the term “veteran” means a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable.” This definition seems to be straightforward on its face. However, as with anything involving lawyers or bureaucracy, it is not as simple as it seems.

How does the VA Regional Office process a claim for VA benefits?

Complete VA Form 21-526, and submit it to the VA regional office in your state. Follow this link to find the regional office in your state. 

VA will respond with a letter acknowledging receipt of the claim, and advising you of what information or evidence is still needed. The VA has a duty to assist you in obtaining any evidence identified by you.

Once the VA has received all of the information identified, or at the expiration of a certain period of time if the veteran has failed to respond, your claim will be reviewed by a rating specialist. The rating specialist reviews the medical records and any other evidence submitted and decides whether to grant or deny benefits, and at what percentage, or level, of compensation.

This article is authored through the collaborative efforts of Shana Dunn and other legal professionals at West & Dunn, a law firm dedicated to providing high quality legal services to individuals and businesses, with a particular focus on assisting veterans of the United States Armed Forces. If you have questions or would like assistance with your VA claim, the attorneys at West & Dunn can be reached at 608-535-6420.

How Do I Obtain VA Disability Benefits?

The US Department of Veterans Affairs will compensate veterans on a monthly basis for any disability that was sustained during military service. To apply for benefits, you must complete VA Form 21-526, and submit it to the regional office in their state: Link to form

In order for service connection (the VA calls disabilities that were caused by military service “service connected” disabilities) to be granted, the veteran must show the following:

  1. an injury in service

  2. a current disability

  3. and a link between the current disability and military service.

There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, some conditions are presumed service connected without additional evidence of a link between them. Veterans who served in-country in Vietnam and have certain diseases such as diabetes are granted service connection on a presumptive basis.

Mental health claims, such as those for post traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) require even more evidence to support them. To prove a claim for PTSD you must have, in addition to the above three elements, prove that you were exposed to a stressful event (the VA calls this a “stressor”).  See the PTSD section under specific disabilities/special issues tab for more information.

This article is authored through the collaborative efforts of Shana Dunn and other legal professionals at West & Dunn, a law firm dedicated to providing high quality legal services to individuals and businesses, with a particular focus on assisting veterans of the United States Armed Forces. If you have questions or would like assistance with your VA claim, the attorneys at West & Dunn can be reached at 608-535-6420.