The VA’s Modernized and Legacy Review Systems
On February 19, 2019, a new system went into effect for seeking review of / appealing denials of VA benefit claims. This “modernized” system, created by the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (AMA), applies to all claims that are filed with a VA regional office on or after February 19, 2019. The modernized review system also applies to all original claims, claims for an increase in disability rating, requests for reopening of finally adjudicated claims, supplemental claims, and requests for revision based on clear and unmistakable error for which the VA agency of original jurisdiction (usually the RO) issues notice of the initial decision on or after February 19, 2019, even if those claims were initially filed under the prior “legacy” system. The modernized system also applies to claims for which the RO issued an initial decision prior to February 19, 2019, but only if the claimant elects (or elected) to subject the claim to the modernized appeals system. Claimants could have opted in to the modernized system by participating in the VA’s pilot program for the modernized system, which was called the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP), or by filing a supplemental claim within one year of receiving a pre-February 19, 2019, notice of a rating decision. Claimants can now opt in to the modernized system within 60 days of receiving a statement of the case (SOC) or supplemental statement of the case (SSOC) for a claim decided under the legacy system.
The old legacy system that has been operating for decades continues to apply to those claims, requests for reopening of a previously denied claim, or requests for revision based on clear and unmistakable error in which the agency of original jurisdiction (usually the RO) issued its decision BEFORE February 19, 2019. The only exceptions are those noted above: (1) claims that a veteran elected to opt in to RAMP; (2) claims that a claimant elected to opt in to the modernized system by filing a supplemental claim within one year of a pre-February 19, 2019, notice of an RO decision; and (3) claims that a claimant timely elects to opt in to the modernized system after receiving an SOC or SSOC. This means every claim for which the RO issued a decision before February 19, 2019, with the three noted exceptions, is subject to the legacy appeal system, not the modernized review system.