It is no secret that getting VA benefits approved can be a complex and time-consuming process for Veterans. With so many steps, pieces of evidence, and people involved, it should come as no surprise that many disability claims are denied during the initial claim process. Thankfully, the VA recognizes this issue and provides multiple ways to appeal a denied claim. One of the more direct options available is to request a higher-level review of the original claim.
Higher Level Reviews (HLR) are an appeals option you can pursue if you are dissatisfied with the outcome of your first disability compensation claim decision. If a Veteran requests an HLR, his or her claim is reviewed by a new senior VA claim adjudicator. While traditional appeals may require a hearing or submission of new evidence, an HLR is merely another review of a Veteran’s original claim, meaning you cannot add any new evidence. Instead, an HLR is specifically focused on having a higher-level VA employee take another look at a Veteran’s case and the evidence on file to see if the original claim decision was made in error.
The only way to request a higher-level review is to file a Notice of Disagreement and mark “Higher-Level Review” on the form. It should be noted, though, that as you are pursuing your HLR, you have the opportunity for a call with the reviewer for your case. This is referred to as an informal conference.
During an informal conference, you or your Veterans disability appeal lawyer will have the opportunity to highlight errors you believe occurred with your first submission, as well as why you think the decision should be changed. As with a regular HLR submission, you will not be able to submit new evidence and your conversation will be limited to a discussion about your original claim. While this opportunity to directly speak with someone reviewing your claim is incredibly useful, there is a strong likelihood that adding the informal conference will extend the HLR review process past the typical 125 days.
For this reason, it is critical that you take your adjudicator’s call immediately. They will only attempt to contact you twice before moving forward with their review.
After the VA reviews your higher-level appeal, you will get the results of your claim. If you go through the higher-level appeals process and your claim is still not approved, you can go through another lane, but you cannot request another higher-level review. You have the option to submit a supplemental appeal if you think you have gathered new, relevant evidence that will support your claim. You can also submit an appeal to the Board of Veteran’s Appeals, where you must choose whether you want to pursue a direct review, a new evidence submission, or a hearing.
Getting your VA benefits approved can be a lengthy and discouraging process. It is easy to get bogged down and feel like you will never receive the help you deserve. Our dedicated VA disability advocates understand this feeling and are committed to helping Veterans like you get the benefits you deserve as quickly as possible. Contact our team today and let us do the hard work for you.