You may be able to increase your VA disability rating if you can provide new evidence that your condition has gotten worse. Or, you may have a case if you think you are being short-changed on an initial rating. So where do you go from here? You have a couple of options, depending on which best fits your situation:
- File an appeal; or
- File a claim for an Increased Rating
How To File an Appeal
When you file an initial claim, one of two things will happen. The VA will either grant or deny your claim. If the VA grants your claim, the rating decision will also include an effective date and a disability rating. If you think the disability rating VA has assigned is too low, or the effective date is incorrect, you have one year from the date of the notification letter you received with the decision to file a Notice of Disagreement. This would be an increased rating within the legacy appeals system if you received an appeal before February 15, 2019. The Notice of Disagreement should be filed on VA Form 21-0958. This form is the only way you can appeal a denial of your disability claim. Previously, you could file a Statement in Support of Claim.
Should you receive an unfavorable decision, you will have review options under the new appeals process: higher-level review or supplemental claim, and/or Notice of Disagreement lane (i.e. Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals).
Higher-Level Review Lane
When you choose to request a Higher-Level Review, you’re asking for another review of the same evidence. Essentially, a senior rater will take another look at your case and determine whether the decision can be changed based on a difference of opinion or an error that the VA made. Veterans cannot submit additional evidence in support of their claims. Instead, the reviewer will issue a new decision based on the same evidence of record that was available at the time of the prior decision.
Supplemental Claim Lane
When you choose to file a Supplemental Claim, you must submit new evidence that the VA didn’t have before to support your case. A reviewer will look at all the evidence, including the new evidence, and determine whether it changes the decision. This lane allows for the submission of new and relevant evidence. Furthermore, this is the only appeal in which the VA has a duty to assist Veterans in gathering evidence to support their claims.
Notice of Disagreement (i.e. Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals)
In this lane, Veterans can appeal their cases directly to the board following an unfavorable decision from the Regional Office. A judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in Washington, D.C will review your case.
- Direct Docket Veterans can choose this route if they do not want to submit additional evidence to the board. They also do this if they do not want a hearing before a Veterans Law Judge. In this docket, the board will only look at the evidence that was in the Veteran’s file when the appealed decision was issued. The VA has set a 365-day goal for issuing decisions in the direct docket board lane, which is projected to be the fastest among all three options.
- Hearing Docket Veterans can do this if they want a hearing before a Veterans Law Judge. The only hearing options available to Veterans under appeals reform include a video-conference hearing and a hearing at the board in Washington, D.C. Travel board hearings, held by Veterans Law Judges at ROs, will only be available to Veterans in the legacy appeals system (i.e. the old appeals system).
- Evidence Docket For Veterans who want to submit additional evidence, but do not want a hearing. In this lane, Veterans can submit additional evidence to the board with their Notice of Disagreement, and within the 90 days following their Notice of Disagreement.
Have VA Disability Questions? Get Help from Our Team
The VA system can be tough to navigate. It can be frustrating to do it on your own. The team at Veterans Guardian is here to help you. We have assisted many eligible disabled Veterans and we can put our experience to work for you.