When you apply for benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), there is a chance you could be denied. Fortunately, you have the right to appeal the decision. One aspect of this is the Evidence Window, which dictates how and when you are allowed to submit new evidence. Let’s discuss these Evidence Windows, which is clarified under the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act (AMA).
In 2017, the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act, also known as AMA, was signed into law with the aim of making the Veterans benefits appeals process more efficient. This law brought significant changes to the claims and appeals process, allowing three options for decision review if you disagreed with the VA’s decision. It also focused on improving the notification of VA decisions, providing faster claim resolution, and ensuring Veterans receive the earliest effective date possible.
The first option is called a higher-level review, where a senior VA reviewer re-evaluates the evidence to determine if a mistake was made the first time around. Typically, no new evidence is allowed in this stage, and the decision to overturn is based on a different opinion or an evident error.
The second option is a supplemental claim, which is helpful if you have new, relevant information to support your claim. The VA will assess the new evidence to determine if the applicant should receive benefits or if his or her current benefits should be increased. Generally, Veterans have about a year from the date of denial to submit the new evidence.
The third option is a Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) Review, available if you are dissatisfied with the VA’s decision. The BVA conducts a fresh review of the case, without taking the previous VA decision into account. There are three options within the BVA Review process. The first option involves a direct review, where you do not submit additional evidence or have a hearing. The second option allows you to submit additional evidence without a hearing. The last option is to submit evidence and have a hearing with a Veterans Law Judge. New evidence can be submitted up to 90 days before the scheduled BVA hearing – this is known as the Evidence Window.
The Evidence Window provides you with the best opportunity to secure the benefits you rightfully deserve. The VA understands there may be other evidence to your claim that was either previously unavailable or that you were unaware should have been included. Either way, it is important to submit the evidence within the available window, or else your acceptance may be at risk.