There are three options for appealing a VA decision: reopening the claim, requesting a higher-level review or filing a supplemental claim. Each option has its requirements and timelines. Reopening a claim only applies to new evidence the agency did not consider. This new evidence must be both relevant and material.
Request a Board Appeal
If you disagree with the VA’s decision, there are a few options for appealing. You can request a higher-level review, submit a supplemental claim, or file a direct appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
A higher-level review involves a senior examiner taking another look at your case but only allowing for new evidence submission. A supplemental claim is an option when you have unique and relevant evidence proving or disproving a matter in your denial. You can find the forms for these two options in your notification letter or rating decision. When you file a direct appeal, you request a hearing before the Board. This allows for submitting new evidence but involves a longer wait time than the other options. You must work with accredited representation throughout the process. If the Department of Veterans Affairs denies your claim, you must seek legal assistance to explore your options and appeal the decision if necessary. The right attorney can make all the difference in your case. They can help you decide what steps are best for your circumstances.
Appeal the Decision
The first step in the appeal process is to file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). A NOD documents your intent to appeal the VA’s decision formally. In the NOD, you should state that you disagree with all the decisions made in the denial letter and rating decision. It is important not to get too specific in this form because it may limit your ability to appeal to other issues not mentioned in your statement of disagreement.
The next option to consider is a higher-level review. This process involves a senior reviewer taking a second look at the records you submitted to the VA. However, new evidence cannot be added with this appeal option.
The next option is to submit a supplemental claim. An additional claim allows veterans to provide new and relevant evidence that the VA has not previously considered. This includes new medical records, buddy letters, and other supporting documentation that could help a claim.
Request a Higher-Level Review
If the VA denied you benefits based on an incorrect decision, you can request a higher-level review of that decision. This process is simpler and more efficient than taking your appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA).
In a higher-level review, an experienced senior-level VA benefits reviewer will look at your claim with fresh eyes using a legal standard called de novo review. You do not have to submit any new evidence in a higher-level review. You can request a higher-level review by filling out VA Form 20-0996 or contacting your VA-accredited disability attorney. You can also file a supplemental claim with additional medical or service-connection evidence. If you receive an unfavorable decision from a higher-level review, you can go on to file a Board appeal or take the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The Court’s rules are available on their website. The Court is working to clear its backlog of appeals caused by the pandemic.
Request a Supplemental Claim
A supplemental claim is an opportunity to submit any evidence you believe was missing or overlooked in your initial decision. This could include medical records, a new diagnostic, or a buddy statement from a fellow veteran who can attest to seeing your symptoms and quality of life. You can also use your supplemental claim for an independent medical exam (IME) as part of the review process. This is a good idea if you believe the VA’s original decision was incorrect, and you should receive higher ratings for your disabilities. The VA defines “new and relevant evidence” as information they didn’t have when making the original decision. This can include test results from private doctors and even a new personal statement from you discussing your current symptoms and how they impact your daily life. The goal of the supplemental lane is to have your case completed within 125 days. If you aren’t satisfied with the result, you can request a higher-level review or a Board appeal.