Thanks to the passage of the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act in 2017, the process of appealing the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) decisions on disability benefits claims has changed significantly. Outstanding appeals filed prior to the implementation of this new system will be processed as “legacy” claims, but new appeals will be subject to an entirely different system.
The new VA appeals process has pros and cons for former servicemembers looking to obtain benefits or increase the amount of compensation they receive every month. Either way, achieving a positive outcome from this process can be made easier with the professional guidance and support of a dedicated veterans’ disability appeals attorney.
The first of three options for appealing a denial of VA disability benefits under the new system is filing a supplemental claim. This allows you to provide additional evidence to the VA that is both new and relevant. According to VA policy, “new” evidence must be information the agency did not receive in the original application and did not have when making its initial decision, and “relevant” evidence is information that could impact the agency’s understanding of some element of the claim.
Applicants who wish to submit a supplemental claim can do so by filing VA Form 20-0995. In this form, you should indicate what type of benefit you are seeking and what issue(s) you want the VA to review, and you should either submit new and relevant evidence, identify evidence for the VA to gather and review on its own, or both.
Unlike supplemental claims, higher-level reviews do not allow applicants going through the VA appeals process to submit any additional evidence for consideration. Instead, this procedure allows you to have a senior reviewer employed by the VA take a second look at either an initial claim denial or a supplemental claim denial.
You can request a higher-level review by filling out and submitting VA Form 20-0996, which also requires you to indicate the benefits you are seeking and what issue(s) you would like to have reviewed. Additionally, your attorney can schedule a phone call with the senior reviewer who will look over your case, during which they may highlight specific errors and make an argument as to why the decision should be changed.
The third option in the new VA appellate process is the Board of Veterans Appeal, which you can submit an appeal to after an initial claim, a supplemental claim, or a higher-level review. Individuals seeking a Board Appeal can either request that a Veterans Law Judge (VLJ) reconsider a claim based on existing evidence, submit additional evidence for the VLJ to review, or request a hearing to testify before a VLJ.
You can indicate which path you want to take and get the Board Appeal process started by filing VA Form 10182. A qualified legal professional from our firm can provide crucial guidance about which option may be best for you.
While appealing the VA’s decision on your disability benefits works differently than it used to, the process can still be very complicated and difficult to manage on your own. Wait times for appellate decisions range from months to years, and any mistakes or problems with your appeal could significantly increase those delays and ultimately lead to another denial.
Fortunately, help is available from our qualified team of lawyers. To find out how legal counsel could help you through the VA appeals process, call us today.