How do I appeal my denied VA claim?
When veterans receive an unfavorable decision from VA, they have the option to appeal and seek a more favorable outcome. The process of appealing a denied VA claim is different when it comes to the old “Legacy” appeals system and the new “Appeals Reform” system set in place by the Appeals Modernization Act. The appeals process under each of these systems is outlined below.
Appealing Under the Legacy Appeals System
The Legacy appeals system only involves one “lane” in the veterans’ claims process. In other words, all veterans appealing unfavorable decisions will go through the following steps:
- Veteran files a claim
- Local Regional Office will issue a Rating Decision that grants, denies, or partially grants the claim
- Veteran has one year to file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD)
- Veteran then waits for a Statement of the Case (SOC), explaining why the claim was denied or only partially granted. Importantly, if the claim is granted following the Notice of Disagreement, the veteran will likely receive a Decision Review Officer Decision.
- Veteran has 60 days from when VA issues the SOC to file a VA Form 9 Substantive Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals
- The Board will then issue a decision granting, denying, or remanding the case for further action
- If a veteran is appealing a denial from the Board, he or she has 120 days to appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC)
- If the veteran’s claim is denied by the CAVC, he or she has 60 days to appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Federal Circuit)
The new system under the Appeals Modernization Act offers more choice for veterans when it comes to handling disagreements with VA’s decisions.
Appealing Under Appeals Reform
Under Appeals Modernization, there will still be a Rating Decision after every initial claim is filed. However, if a veteran disagrees with VA’s decision, he or she is no longer bound to the single-queue, linear process described above. Instead, veterans have multiple appeal options from which they can select the one best suited for the unique needs of their case. If after an appeal, a veteran receives another unfavorable decision, he or she has different appeal options depending on from which lane the decision came:
- Higher-Level Review Rating Decision. If a veteran receives an unfavorable Rating Decision in the higher-level review lane, he or she has one year to file either a supplemental claim or a Notice of Disagreement to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. A veteran cannot request higher-level review of a decision that came from within the higher-level review lane.
- Supplemental Claim Rating Decision. If a veteran receives an unfavorable Rating Decision in the supplemental claim lane, he or she has one year to file an appeal in any one of the three lanes available. Importantly, there is no limit on the number of supplemental claims a veteran files, but he or she must submit new and relevant evidence in order to do so.
- Board Decision. If a veteran receives an unfavorable Board decision, he or she can either file a supplemental claim within one year or appeal to the CAVC within 120 days. Here, the option for higher-level review is unavailable because the Board is the highest level of review within VA. If a veteran disagrees with a CAVC decision, he or she can submit a supplemental claim within one year or appeal to the Federal Circuit within 60 days.