In this article, Attorney Shana Dunn explains what next steps a veteran can take after receiving a denial letter from VA.
Receiving a denial from VA can be very frustrating. Often it’s not clear why the claim was denied, or it seems like VA didn’t review any of the evidence submitted in support of the claim. While the frustration is understandable, the denial is not usually the end of the story.
There are a number of options available following a denial.
1. Supplemental Claim - New and relevant evidence is required to file a supplemental claim. That means you must either file or identify evidence that is not already in the record that relates to one of the elements of service connection.
This type of claim will be decided by the lower-level VA decision makers. A decision is usually made within 6 months. The time it takes to make a decision depends on the type of development VA has to do to obtain the evidence identified.
2. Higher level review - This is a request for a more experienced VA employee to review the record and make a new decision based on the evidence that was in the file at the time of the decision with which you disagree. No new evidence can be submitted, but you can and should submit an argument to let VA know why you think the claim was incorrectly decided.
This type of claim will be decided by a more experienced employee. It takes, on average, four to six months for a decision.
3. BVA appeal - An appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals removes your appeal from the VA regional offices, and will result in a decision by an administrative law judge. You can request direct review, meaning no evidence will be submitted, evidence submission, or the hearing docket.
An appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals will result in a wait of 24 to 36 months. If you request a hearing, the wait will be even longer.
The supplemental claim and BVA appeal are available following any type of Rating Decision. The higher level review is only available following a new or supplemental claim. It is not possible to request a higher-level review of a higher level-review decision or of a BVA decision.
There is strategy in determining the proper appeal lane. If you select the BVA hearing docket but you have not fully proved your claim, you may wait five years for a hearing only to have BVA send your appeal back to the regional office for further development. It’s important to make the choice of appeal option strategically. A knowledgeable VA advocate can shave years off the life of the claim by choosing the appropriate option. Contact the legal experts at West & Dunn at 608-535-6420 or through our Contact Us page for a free consultation of your case.