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When you receive the letter with the VA’s decision to deny your disability compensation claim or underrate your disability rating, you do not have to simply accept it.

Maybe when you filed your original claim, you didn’t have evidence that your injury was service-related. Maybe you didn’t provide descriptions of the disability from friends or family.

Read on to learn about your options and how to win a VA disability claim appeal. 

What Are the Options for Decision Review and What Are the Deadlines?

The VA offers three ways to appeal the denial of a claim made after February 19, 2019: a Supplemental Claim, Higher-Level Review, and Board Appeal.

The deadlines and evidence required for these appeals vary depending on the method you choose. If you have new evidence, you should choose an option that allows you to submit it.

Claim denials dated before February 19, 2019, go through a legacy appeals process, or you can choose to appeal using the modernized decision review options.

Supplemental Claim

If you want to submit new evidence for the VA to review, you can file a Supplemental Claim.

The evidence in your Supplemental Claim must be new (the VA didn’t have the information before it made its original decision) and relevant (the information could prove or disprove something) to your claim.

The VA’s duty to assist applies to Supplemental Claims. You can file a Supplemental Claim by mail or in person. There is no time limit to file a Supplemental Claim.

If you file within one year of the original decision and the VA grants your Supplemental Claim, the effective date of your payments will relate back to the original claim, and you may receive retroactive payments. The VA should return a decision on your Supplemental Claim in 4-5 months. 

Higher-Level Review

If you don’t have new evidence to submit but want an additional review of your claim, you can request a Higher-Level Review of your initial claim or Supplemental Claim decision.

A new, senior reviewer will determine whether they can change the decision because of a difference of opinion or an error. 

You must request a Higher-Level Review within one year of the date of your VA decision notification letter.

You can request a Higher-Level Review online for disability compensation claims, but you must request a review of all other types of claims by mail or in person.

During the review, you can speak with the reviewer on the phone to explain why you think they should change the decision, such as an error in your decision notification letter. You can expect a decision from the Higher-Level Review in 4-5 months.

Board Appeal

A Veterans Law Judge on the Board of Veterans’ Appeals will review your claim in a Board Appeal.

You will submit a Notice of Disagreement for an initial claim, Supplemental Claim, or Higher-Level Review decision by mail, in person, or by fax.

You must submit your request for Board Appeal within one year of the date of the VA’s decision notification letter.

If you are appealing a contested decision (when multiple people claim a benefit that only one can receive), you must request Board Appeal within 60 days.

If you do not have new evidence to submit, you can request a direct review of your claim.

On direct review, the Veterans Law Judge will review your claim using the evidence in your original claim. You can expect a decision on direct review within one year.

If you want to submit more evidence, you may do so within 90 days of your request for Board Appeal.

In addition, you can request a hearing with the Veterans Law Judge in a virtual hearing, video conference hearing, or in-person hearing in Washington, D.C.

You have the option to submit new evidence during the hearing or for 90 days after the hearing. If you submit new evidence or request a hearing, the Board may take more than one year to decide.

How to Win a VA Claim and How to Win a VA Appeal

The best way to appeal a VA disability claim is to give the VA new evidence and have an experienced, accredited VA attorney help you during your decision review. 

What Evidence Do I Need to Win a VA Claim?

To win your VA claim, you must prove that your disability is service-connected. You must show that your disability directly resulted from your military service or was made worse by your service.

You will want to start collecting evidence as soon as you start seeing the disability, even if it’s during service. Your evidence should come from a medical professional and laypeople (friends, family, or co-workers) who have witnessed your disability.

Do I Need to Hire an Attorney to Win My VA Appeal?

While it’s not required to have representation for a decision review, it is a good idea to have an accredited VA disability attorney to help with your appeal.

An accredited VA attorney cannot charge you legal fees until you win your claim. Even then, you will pay legal fees directly from the benefit payment you receive, not out of pocket. VA appeals can be complex.

A VA attorney can help gather evidence, file paperwork, find medical experts, and research the law. Only a VA disability attorney is qualified to perform these services effectively.

Winning a VA appeal isn’t guaranteed, but knowing that you have experienced VA attorneys dedicated to your appeal is the best way to get the benefits you deserve.

At Gerling Law, we recognize that those who served this country are not always treated fairly during VA disability claims.

We have recovered over $500 million for our injured and disabled clients since 1963. You fought for your country; now let Gerling Law fight for you. You only pay if you win.

Get a free consultation from an experienced member of our team today. 

Author Photo

Gayle Gerling Pettinga

Born and raised in Evansville, Gayle is a respected, experienced lawyer and a valued community leader. She graduated near the top of her class at Indiana University’s prestigious Maurer School of Law. She’s practiced law with one of the largest firms in Indianapolis as well as one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. And that means she knows how big law firms and big companies think and how they operate – and she will put that knowledge to work for you.

Gayle has received numerous awards and honors including Martindale-Hubbell — Peer Review Rated: AV®, American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys 10 Best Attorneys in Indiana for Exceptional and Outstanding Client Service, and YWCA Evansville 100 Years, 100 Women Honoree, 2011.

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