Which Veterans Disability Appeal Option Is Right For Me?

If you have been denied service connection in your VA Disability claim, or the VA has rated your disabilities lower than they should have, you have a number of options to appeal the decision. As we discussed in the article about the Appeals Modernization Act, there are three basic options to choose when appealing decision by the VA: the Higher-Level Review, the Supplemental Claim, and the Appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals.

Unfortunately, which route to take is not always easy. Picking a particular lane involves a number of factors, including the reason for the denial and whether or not you need to submit additional evidence, like a nexus letter from a doctor or buddy statements. Contact a seasoned Veterans Advocacy lawyer at the Law Office of Andrew P. Gross for help in determining which appeal lane is right for you.

Reasons for VA Disability Claim Denial

When a claim is denied due to lack of sufficient evidence or incomplete information in order to prove a service-connected disability, you can submit new evidence on appeal (see below).

When a claim is denied due to what you believe is an error, a Higher-Level Review can be submitted to ensure that a senior reviewer will determine your rating decision. Alternatively, or in addition to a Higher-Level Review, a Board Appeal is reviewed by a judge who is an expert in Veteran’s law. Depending on the error on the part of the VA, either appeal lane may be appropriate. Examples of errors that the VA may make when reviewing your claim for disability include:

  • If the VA mistakenly determines that you don’t have a disability or that your symptoms don’t warrant compensation; or
  • If the VA mistakenly determines that your disability is not service-related despite sufficient evidence.

Timing of Appeal

A Higher-Level Review or a Supplemental Claim can often be decided in a matter of months, whereas an appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals can take years. Often times it might make sense to try a Supplemental Claim first, then a Higher-Level Review, and then an appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals.

Complexity of the Issues

Depending on how complex the issue is can often guide the decision of how to appeal a case. For instance, a simple effective date issue from a previous Supplemental Claim on an issue that has been continuously pursued may be solved with a Higher Level Review. A more complicated issue, such as effective dates of Total Disability based on Unemployability, or TDIU, might be signicantly more complicated and require briefing before the Board of Veterans Appeals.

Submitting Additional Evidence

Sometimes, you might want to the VA to do additional development, such as ordering a new exam. In that case, a Higher-Level Review might actually be the smartest option. This might seem counter-intuitive, but given the option to request an informal conference, you can explain the shortcomings of the previous rating decision.

If there are additional medical records or lay statements you want to submit, or you want the VA to retrieve additional records, you may want to consider the Supplemental Claim route. You can also elect to appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals and submit evidence, but if you want the VA do develop additional evidence (like ordering a new exam or retrieving VA records on your behalf), the Supplemental Claim route might be the better options, because the Board of Veterans Appeals does not actually request the records or order the exams themselves; for that, they remand your case back to the regional office.

Contact Experienced Veterans Disability Attorney, Andrew P. Gross for VA Claims Assistance

Before choosing an appeal option, it’s a good idea to go through your own VA Claims Folder. You can read more about how to get access to your claims folder here .

Selecting the right option for an appeal can be critical. For more information about the difference between submitting a Supplemental Claim, Higher-Level Review Request, or Board Appeal, see The Different VA Forms I Might Encounter.