The VA just denied your disability claim.
You’re left thinking about your options. There are a few routes you have within the AMA appeal system. Should you choose a lane that requires new evidence? You might even be wondering what counts as new evidence these days.
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In this article about new and relevant evidence in your VA appeal:
- What does “evidence” mean to the VA
- New and relevant evidence – What is it and why is it important?
- What is new evidence for an appeal?
- What is relevant evidence in a VA disability appeal?
- Why is submitting new and relevant evidence important to win my appeal?
- 4 types of new and relevant evidence
- What do you do if you have new and relevant evidence?
- How Woods and Woods can help
What does “evidence” mean to the VA
First, let’s start by taking a look at what the VA means by evidence for a claim.
Evidence is anything that you or your representative submit to the VA to support your disability claim. It also includes information that the VA obtains on your behalf.
New evidence is any additional proof of your claim submitted in an appeal, that was not a part of your previous claim.
In the VA appeal system, you may see references to two phrases that may look similar are actually different: “new and material evidence”(used in the old legacy appeal system) and “new and relevant evidence” (used in the new appeal system called AMA).If you appeal a VA decision that was made after Feb. 19, 2019, your appeal will be decided under the AMA system.
New and relevant evidence – What is it and why is it important?
New and relevant evidence is necessary when you’re appealing through several of the AMA lanes. There are three main lanes you can choose: higher-level review, supplemental claim, and appealing to the BVA. There are three sub-routes within the BVA lane: direct review, evidence submission, and hearing.
Higher-level review and direct review are the only appeal options that do not allow for new and relevant evidence. These lanes are normally reserved for VA errors like incorrect effective dates.
Supplemental claim and BVA evidence submission lanes require you to provide new and relevant evidence. In the BVA hearing lane, new and relevant evidence is an option.
What is new evidence for an appeal?
New evidence needs to be information that’s not already contained in your records with the VA, including:
- Records the VA obtained for you
- Records you submitted to the VA
If you were to re-submit the same evidence in a lane that requires new evidence, the VA would deny your request.
What is relevant evidence in a VA disability appeal?
Relevant evidence adds value to your claim. It needs to show the VA the true nature of your disability or help you connect the condition to your service.
To be relevant, the evidence must be something that bolsters your claim, such as a new diagnosis, lay statements, or proof of unemployment. Sometimes, veterans will make a claim for a service-related injury or illness but not provide substantial documentation of the condition or its impact on their lives. The VA needs definitive proof of your claim.
Documentation of this kind is relevant and can definitely have a bearing on the VA’s decision.
Why is submitting new and relevant evidence important to win my appeal?
If you feel that you received a wrong or unfavorable decision from the VA regarding your service connection, rating, unemployability benefits, or even your effective date, you can support your appeal with new and relevant evidence to help you receive the benefits you deserve. The VA can’t know you or understand how your disability affects your life without evidence. If the VA does not have all of the information on the true impact of your disability or how it relates back to service, it may not award you the correct level of compensation.
4 types of new and relevant evidence
What type of evidence should you include when requesting to reopen your claim? New and relevant evidence can refer to evidence in the following categories.
1. Service records (DD214)
A DD214 form is your Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty papers. This form includes:
- How long you served
- Reason(s) for discharge
- Reenlistment eligibility
- Awards earned
- Medals awarded
- Highest rank
- Pay grade while on active duty
- Total military overseas or combat service
- Any specialties, designations, or classifications
2. Medical records
Your medical records can include those obtained while you were an active duty service member. They can also include VA and private medical records. If you’ve seen any kind of physician for examinations or diagnostic testing, those records are eligible for inclusion. Also included are the results of your C&P examination, which will show those reviewing your claim the current severity of your illness, injury, or condition.
Regularly seeing a doctor is not only beneficial for your health, but can also be a valuable tool for VA claims and appeals. Changes in your health could potentially be related to your service. The sooner you’re aware of health problems, the sooner you can treat them and potentially be awarded more compensation.
3. Employment records
The VA will want to see documentation regarding unemployment if you have applied for total disability based on individual unemployability benefits (TDIU). TDIU is for veterans who are unable to work because of their service-connected disabilities. Veterans with TDIU benefits receive the same amount of monthly compensation as veterans with 100% disability ratings.
Employment records include files regarding disciplinary action, performance reports, and any other documents regarding your pattern of unemployment.
You can use VA Form 21-4192 to request information from your most recent employer.
4. Lay statements
A lay statement (or buddy statement) is a form of evidence that’s based on written statements by:
- Family members
- Those you served with
Statements from non-medical individuals can bolster your case and help fill in the gaps if there’s any missing information on your service or medical treatment records. Lay statements can also give the person reviewing your case a better idea of your current health and living situation.
Lay people can provide information/evidence:
- To describe the illness, event, or injury sustained in service that caused your disability or worsened your symptoms
- That will support the need for raising your disability rating by outlining your symptoms, how they’ve progressed, and how severe they are now
- Showing how your disability impacts your ability to do work
What do you do if you have new and relevant evidence?
When you have new and relevant evidence to present to the VA, you’ll need to choose which appeal lane is best for you.
Each lane has its purpose and deciding what your best option is is a highly individualized process.
How Woods and Woods can help
If you are considering a VA disability appeal, contact Woods and Woods for a free consultation. Our team of attorneys, case managers, and legal analysts works hard to develop innovative case strategies and has helped thousands of veterans get the benefits they deserve.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
New and material evidence is a term used in the old veterans disability appeal process, commonly referred to as the legacy system which handles appeals for VA decisions made before Feb. 19, 2019.
Two lanes in the VA appeal process require veterans to submit new and relevant evidence: supplemental claim and BVA evidence submission lanes. Veterans who appeal to the BVA and request a hearing have the option of submitting new evidence.