Learning that you’ve been denied veterans disability benefits can be quite upsetting, but a denial doesn’t necessarily mean that you are ineligible for assistance. For disability denials received on or after February 19, 2019, you have three options for your appeal: add new evidence, request a higher-level review, or appeal to a veterans law judge.
Before the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act created this streamlined process, it was not uncommon for appeals to take three to seven years. Now, the shorter appeals process allows veterans to better plan for their future needs.
Adding New Evidence
VA benefits can be denied if your original application did not have complete evidence to document your disability. If you have new test results or other information that supports your case, you can file a supplemental claim to request that the decision be reconsidered in light of this new evidence. This is done by completing Decision Review Request: Supplemental Claim (VA Form 20-0995).
Typically, it takes four to five months to receive notice after filing a supplemental claim. The VA’s decision goal is 125 days.
Requesting a Higher-Level Review
When you request a higher-level review, you’re asking for a different person to review the evidence you originally submitted and determine if you should be approved for benefits. You will be able to speak with the reviewer on the phone as part of this process. This is done by completing Decision Review Request: Higher-Level Review (VA Form 20-0996).
As with filing a supplemental claim, it typically takes four to five months to receive notice of a decision after requesting a higher-level review. The VA’s decision goal is 125 days.
Appealing to a Veterans Law Judge
If you want to appeal to a judge, an expert in veterans law will review your case at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in Washington, D.C. You will be allowed to add new evidence and meet with the judge in person or via video conference as part of this process. If this is the option you wish to pursue, you must file Decision Review Request: Board Appeal (VA Form 10182).
Appealing to a veterans law judge is the most time consuming of all VA disability appeal options. It will take one year or more for your case to be decided. If you are adding new evidence or requesting to meet with the judge, your case will take longer than a direct review with no new evidence or meeting.
Deciding on Your Next Steps
When you receive a notice that your application for disability benefits has been denied, review the letter carefully to determine the grounds for the denial. Common reasons benefits are denied include:
- You don’t have proof of your injury in service.
- The VA does not believe your illness is related to your service.
- You didn’t show up for your Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam.
- The VA doesn’t agree with your doctor’s assessment of your condition.
- The VA does not believe you are disabled.
You have the right to request your C-file (claims file) from your VA Regional Office to learn more about your case. This file contains all the information the VA used to make its decision, including service records, service medical records, current medical records, the results of C&P exams, and any other evidence submitted with your disability application. Requesting your file can help you determine if the denial was due to missing or incomplete information.
Once you’ve reviewed your denial letter and C-file, you can determine which appeal option you wish to pursue. You typically have one year from the date of the decision to request a review of your claim. However, it is always best to contact a veterans disability attorney to begin the appeals process as soon as possible.
Are You A Veteran Who Needs Legal Help To Obtain The Disability Benefits You Deserve?
If you are a veteran and you need help receiving the benefits you deserve you should speak with an experienced veterans disability benefits lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Virginia Beach office directly at 757.490.3500 to schedule your free consultation. We have offices throughout Virginia including Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk and Suffolk.