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Key Differences Between “Legacy” and AMA Cases

Published on September 8th, 2020

One question we’re often asked by many veterans is “what’s the difference between the former VA appeals system, now called the legacy system, and the newer act referred to as the AMA?” There are actually very few differences. In each case, the veterans claim starts with an application to the regional office for benefits. That can be any particular benefit that the veteran believes is service connected. The regional office’s job then is to review the application and to make an initial determination whether or not the veteran is entitled to service connected benefits and resulting service connected compensation.

If the regional office makes a favorable determination, that’s the end. If, however, the regional office makes a determination that either the veteran is not entitled to service connection for the condition, or rates it at an unreasonably low number, then the veteran can appeal.

“Legacy” Appeals Process

The appeal process in the old legacy system was to file a notice of disagreement, then typically seek review by a decision review officer. The decision review officer would issue their decision or a statement of the case. If the decision was unfavorable again, another notice of disagreement can be filed. If a statement of the case was issued, then the veteran had 60 days in which to file an appeal in the form of a document called a Form 9, which appealed the case to the Board of Veterans Appeals. At the Board of Veterans Appeals, the veteran was entitled to a hearing and the opportunity to introduce whatever new evidence he or she believed was relevant.

AMA Appeals Process

In the AMA system, it’s a little different. There is still an initial determination. If the veteran’s unhappy with that result, then again, there is a notice of disagreement, but now, instead of the old decision review officer process, there’s an option for what’s called higher level review — which simply means that another, often more experienced, staffer within the VA’s local office will review the case and determine whether the initial rating was correct.

Unfortunately, under the higher level review option, there’s no opportunity for new evidence. Because there’s no opportunity for new evidence, the result is usually the same. However, either after a higher level review or directly from the initial decision directly, the veteran can file a notice of disagreement asking for review by the Board of Veterans Appeals. The key difference between the “legacy” system and the current AMA system at the Board of Veterans Appeals is that, under the new system, a veteran has to specify whether he or she wants a review just on the documents that were originally filed with the regional office or wants to offer new evidence. In most cases, offering new evidence is the key to winning the case, so whether to offer new evidence is an important decision. New evidence can often solve whatever problem the regional office raised in denying the claim.

Should You Have a Hearing?

There’s one other choices that a veteran has to make under the new system, and that is whether to have a hearing or to just simply submit new evidence. In most cases, we encourage veterans to have a hearing. This gives the opportunity to make an important personal connection with the judge and to explain how his or her problems have led to the current disability and why he or she is entitled to compensation for it. These are just the basic differences between the two systems, and there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution for every case. If you need help with an appeal, feel free to call us at (800) 524-3339, for a free, no-obligation consultation to talk about your case and decide whether we can help.


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