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Monday, September 4, 2017

VA Appeals Process About to Get Better

It is commonly acknowledged that the VA disability claims appeals process is broken. As we reported in April, the VA asked Congress to speedily pass legislation to help. As a result, the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 was signed into law on August 23, 2017.

Currently, all appeals go directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. This new law, however, will greatly improve the claims appeals process by routing veterans’ appeals into one of three “lanes.” Appeals in the first lane, the Local Higher Level Review, would be assigned an adjudicator who would review the same evidence that was presented in the original claim. The New Evidence lane would allow the veteran to present new evidence for review and be granted a hearing. Appeals in the Board lane would be immediately transferred to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

A key provision of the law requires the VA to provide veterans with a clearer, better explanation of the VA’s reasons for their decisions. This will make it easier for veterans to decide whether or not to appeal the decision and help them determine which lane would be best.

Implementation of the new “lane” appeals process could take a year or more. The law requires the VA to submit to Congress by late November of this year an in-depth plan on how to implement the new system as well as determine which veterans who currently have appeals pending will be permitted to move from the old system to the new one. The decision to move their appeal to the new system will rest with the veteran.


Veterans groups and other supporters of the new law were pleased that veterans will now have more options for appealing their benefits claims decisions. It is estimated that more than 470,000 veterans are currently waiting on decisions on their claims appeals, with nearly 150,000 of those already before either the Board for Veterans Appeals or the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Depending on how long it takes to implement the new law, those cases already before either the Board or the Court may be too far along in the appeals process to be able to transfer to the new system. While this new law is not a complete fix of the problems, most agree it’s a step in the right direction.

3 comments:

  1. Greetings Dr. Johnson,

    I just had my rating increased from 90% to 100% based on VA increasing my bilateral pes planus from 0% rating to 50% rating. However, they indicated in the letter that future exams will be required. I was under the opinion that if you had a condition that is not expected to improve, VA would give you Permanent and Total Status. So my question is what is the process to obtain this status. I have listed my other conditions below:

    50% bilateral pes planus and bilateral plantar fasciitis Service Connected
    10% right ankle achilles tendonitis
    10% left ankle achilles tendonitis
    20% left shoulder tendonitis including impingement syndrome
    20% right shoulder strain
    10% degenerative arthritis of the spine, claimed as low back condition to include spinal arthritis, thoracic and lumbar regions, also claimed as musculoskeletal mid/lower back
    10 % left knee patellofemoral pain syndrome with shin splints, also claimed as stress fracture and narrowing of medial joint space

    10% right knee strain and shin splints, claimed as stress fracture and narrowing of medial joint space knee

    30% degenerative arthritis of the cervical spine, cervical strain
    20% upper right radiculopathy
    10% left side upper radiculopathy (dominant)
    10% left lower extremity radiculopathy
    10% lower right extremity radiculopathy

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    Replies
    1. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Yes, if your doctor believes that your conditions are permanent and will not improve in the future, you can be given a Permanent & Total status by the VA:

      http://www.militarydisabilitymadeeasy.com/permanentandtotalunemployability.html#permanent

      Ultimately, whether or not you get a permanent status is up to the VA's discretion. They do not have to award it if there is any chance that your conditions could improve.

      With your multiple conditions, all of which contribute to your 100% rating, the VA would have to feel that every single one of them is permanent in order to award you that status.

      Very rarely, if ever, are conditions like tendonitis considered permanent. Looking at your conditions, I personally feel that the VA is unlikely to grant you permanent status considering that many of your conditions could technically improve. While they may not, the possibility that they could makes it unlikely that you'll be awarded permanent status.

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  2. This "New Law" is nothing more than a joke, if you really read it all they have done is change the wording to it. There is NO defined deadline to resolve the Appeal backlog, nor deal with the overwhelming corruption in the VBA. Veterans will continue to DIE everyday due to the delays caused with intention by the VBA and the BVA and the Veterans Court of Appeals. Not even the Federal Courts will step in because it involves a federal agency. The DOJ protects the VA rather than hold them accountable for criminal actions. Veterans will never be protected from the corruption within the Dept. of Veterans Affairs

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