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The VA Disability Appeal Timeline

Tucker Law Group
November 3, 2020

Appealing a disability rating or decision with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) is a long and complex process. However, it is important that you get started right away. Not only do you have one year from the decision date to file your appeal, but your VA disability appeal timeline could span years. So, how long does the VA appeals process take on average?

How Long Does the Appeal Process Take for VA Disability?

The VA estimates that it typically takes between 12-18 months for the Veterans Benefits Administration to review and decide on an appeal under the legacy appeal system. If you request a review under this same system from a Veterans Law Judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, it could take anywhere from 5-7 years to receive a decision. However, the VA appeals process timeline is different for each veteran. Your VA disability appeal timeline will vary significantly based on several factors, including:

  • The appeal system
  • The complexity of your case
  • The number of issues you are claiming

To get a better idea of the VA appeals process timeline, you need to determine which appeals system to use for your appeal.

The VA Appeal Process Under Your Designated Appeal System

There are two different appeal systems, the Legacy Appeal system and the Appeals Modernization Act (AMA) system. The date of your claim decision will determine which system you use for your appeal. Depending on when your claim was decided, you will appeal under the Legacy Appeals system or the Appeals Modernization Act (AMA) system.

  • If your claim decision date is before February 19, 2019, then you will file your appeal under the Legacy Appeals system. You should file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) within a year of the Rating Decision date.
  • If your claim decision date is on or after February 19, 2019, then you will file your claim under the Appeals Modernization Act system. As you will read below, there are three options for you to pick from when you appeal a Rating Decision under the AMA system.

Legacy Appeals System

The VA does not operate under any mandated deadlines under the Legacy Appeals system. Although this is true, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report in 2017 outlining the VA’s backlog for disability claims and appeals in this system. According to the GAO, these are the average wait times for the appeals process:

  • 419 days is the average time between the VA receiving the Notice of Disagreement (NOD) to issuing the Statement of the Case (SOC).
  • 537 days is the average time between the receipt of the appeal to certifying it
  • 222 days is the average time between certifying the appeal to it being docketed
  • 270 days is the average time between when the appeal is docketed to when the Board issues a decision on the appeal

If you are going through the VA appeal process, it is important to understand that your VA appeals process timeline is unique to your situation. You may have a shorter or longer wait time under the Legacy Appeals system.

Appeals Modernization Act (AMA) System

The VA does not operate under any mandated deadlines for the Appeals Modernization Act (AMA) system. The VA does, however, have timeframe goals for processing decisions in this system.

In the Higher-Level Review (HLR) and Supplemental Claim lanes, the VA has a 125-day goal for issuing a decision.

In the Board of Veterans’ Appeals Lane, there are three dockets veterans must choose from and the average wait times vary by docket. The three dockets include the:

  • Direct docket. There is a 365-day goal for issuing a decision in the direct docket.
  • Evidence docket.
  • Hearing docket. There is an average wait time of 5-7 years.

Is There a Way to Expedite a VA Disability Claim?

The VA disability appeal timeline is typically lengthy for most veterans but there are several situations where a veteran may qualify to have his or her claim or appeals expedited. These situations include:

  • Terminal illness
  • Severe financial hardship or homelessness
  • Advanced age

When a claim is expedited, VA employees prioritize the claim over “non-priority” claims. This means that the claim is entered into a queue with other “priority” claims. Unfortunately, the veteran will still have to wait in line here as well, which makes it difficult to predict how much faster a claim will process after it is expedited.

Nationally-Recognized Disability Law Firm – Schedule a Free Consultation

The attorneys at Tucker Law Group have helped thousands of clients nationwide manage their VA disability appeals to fight for the VA disability benefits they deserve. If you have questions about your VA disability appeal timeline or about your appeal, schedule a consultation with our law firm today by calling (866) 233-5044 or messaging us through our online contact page.

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