The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 gives Veterans who wish to appeal a VA disability decision three options: Higher-Level Review, Supplemental Claim, and appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Deciding which option is best suited for your needs is the first step in the appeals process.
When Should You File a Supplemental Claim?
Supplemental Claims are appropriate when your previously submitted claim was denied for one of the following reasons:
- The VA found no clear medical diagnosis of a disability.
- The VA found no evidence to support the claim that your disability was caused by or made worse by your military service.
- There was no evidence of symptomatology to support a VA disability rating.
If you want to file a Supplemental Claim, you must include new evidence that is relevant to the reason your previously submitted claim was denied. Relevant evidence either proves or disproves an aspect of your case. Examples of new and relevant evidence may include:
- A buddy statement from someone who witnessed your injury while you were on active duty
- A medical nexus letter from a qualified healthcare professional connecting your condition to your military service
- Results of a diagnostic test or a medical examination not previously submitted
You can either obtain the new and relevant evidence for your Supplemental Claim on your own or request assistance from the VA. As part of its duty to assist, the VA must help you locate evidence that can support your claim for benefits.
If you are unsure whether a specific piece of evidence has already been used to evaluate your claim, you should refer to your notification letter or rating decision. All evidence previously reviewed in the decision should be clearly listed.
How Do You File a Supplemental Claim?
You have one year from the initial VA decision to file a Supplemental Claim. If you wish to request a review of new and relevant evidence, you should fill out the Decision Review Request: Supplemental Claim (VA Form 20-0995). The completed form, along with your supporting evidence, can be submitted by mail or delivered in person to the regional benefit office.
If you have no new and relevant evidence, you can’t submit a Supplemental Claim regardless of the reason your initial claim was denied. You must either request a Higher-Level Review or appeal to the Board of Veteran’s Appeals. If you try to file a Supplemental Claim with no evidence, it will not be accepted.
If you previously requested a different option and now believe you should have selected a Supplemental Claim, you can change your review choice by sending in a new decision review request form within one year from the date on your VA decision. When you submit the new form, you need to include a letter stating that you want to withdraw your existing review and switch to a Supplemental Claim.
How Long Will it Take to Get a Decision?
While the VA has made significant progress in improving wait times for Veterans seeking disability benefits, you must still prepare to be patient. The VA’s goal for Supplemental Claims is to average 125 days for processing.
How Can an Attorney Help?
VA disability law is notoriously complex, and the appeals process isn’t easy for a layperson to understand. To increase your chances of a successful appeal, you need to hire an attorney who understands how the law applies to the specifics of your case.
Although every claim is different, VA statistics reveal that having legal representation is beneficial for most Veterans. In 2019, for example, 46.31% of appeals were approved with an attorney and only 26.18% of appeals were approved with no representative.
The office of Sean Kendall, Attorney-at-Law, has been helping Veterans access the VA disability benefits they need to provide for themselves and their families for over 20 years. Fill out the contact form on this page or call our office today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.