If you disagree with a decision made by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that is dated on or after February 19, 2019, you must use the new appeals system. That means you can select from three alternative decision review options to challenge the denial of any or all of your claims. If you aren’t satisfied with the results of the first option you chose, you can try another option that you are eligible for.
If you disagree with a VA decision dated before February 19, 2019, you must use the legacy appeals process.
With your denial letter, you will be told how the VA gathered evidence to support or deny your claim(s) and the criteria you need to satisfy to show a service-related connection or to move you to the next higher level of compensation.
Under the new appeals process, you will:
The three types of review available under the new appeals process are Higher-Level Review, Supplemental Claim, and Board Appeal.
A higher level of review is an entirely new review of your claim by an experienced senior-level Veterans Benefits Administration claims adjudicator. You can select this type of review if you request it within one year from the decision on your claim. This route is for when you believe a mistake was made determining your claim(s), but you are not supplying new evidence.
You will have an informal conference with a senior reviewer. You and/or your representative can schedule a time to speak to the reviewer via telephone to discuss your case. You can discuss with the reviewer the reasons why you think the decision was made in error and should be changed or you can discuss any issues you believe were wrongfully determined.
The VA’s goal is to quickly complete these high-level reviews, and there will be no transcript of your review.
To file for a higher-level review, fill out the Decision Review Request: Higher-Level Review Form (VA Form 20-0996).
Afterwards, if you receive a higher-level review decision and do not agree, you can still file a traditional Veterans Board Appeal, and your case will be reviewed by a Veterans Law Judge. Or, if you locate additional evidence to submit for review, you may also file a Supplemental Claim.
The supplemental claim route allows you to submit new and relevant evidence supporting your claim, within one year of the date of your decision letter. You can file a Supplemental Claim only if you believe there is new evidence to support your claim. The VA will even assist you in gathering the new evidence. Relevant evidence is simply evidence that you supply that proves or disproves any issue or matter raised by your claim.
In a Supplemental Claim, a reviewer will determine, based upon the new evidence submitted, if the original decision should be changed.
To file a Supplemental Claim, fill out the Decision Review Request: Supplemental Claim (VA Form 20-0995).
To supply evidence that comes from outside the VA, such as medical information from outside doctors, fill out VA Form 21-4142 and include it with your Supplemental Claim form.
If you are not satisfied with the result, you can still file additional claims or elect to use one of the newly created routes to review or appeal. You no longer have to keep filing an NOD (Notice of Disagreement) to appeal, which is now only used when you first seek to go to the Board of Veterans Appeals.
If you don't agree with decision made after your Supplemental Claim or Higher-Level Review, you can still request a substantive appeal and move your claim to the Board of Veterans Appeals.
This type of review typically takes more than one year, and appeals are all scheduled on a "docket" in the order they were received. In certain circumstances, however, such as when a person is suffering from COVID-19 or another illness, a request can be made to expedite the appeal. This is called a motion for advancement on the docket.
You have one year from the date of your decision letter to request a substantive Board Appeal. To request a Board Appeal, fill out the Decision Review Request: Board Appeal (VA Form 10182). You must use this form and submit it directly to the Board of Veterans Appeal.
Once you move to the Board of Appeals, you have three options:
Direct review. Request a direct review, where the Veterans Law Judge will review your appeal based on evidence already submitted, with no hearing. You are not allowed to submit additional evidence with this option.
Submit more evidence. You can submit additional evidence to the Veterans Law Judge for review, but the evidence must be submitted within 90 days after your Decision Review Request: Board Appeal (VA Form 10182) has been received.
Request a hearing. You can request a hearing before a Veterans Law Judge where you can choose to present new and relevant evidence (never considered before), either at the hearing or within 90 days following a hearing date. Adding additional evidence is optional and will lengthen your appeal process. Your hearing will result in a transcript being added to your appeal file.
To learn more, read our answers to questions on VA appeals under the new process.