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Steps to Take if You Disagree with Your VA Disability Rating

The way that the Veterans Administration (VA) handles appeals has changed considerably in the last few years. If it has been a while since you interacted with the VA on a claim, it will be in your interest to learn the new procedures. Either way, it’s important to consult with an experienced VA Appeals Attorney to not only understand your rights, but to know exactly how the new law changes can affect you.

The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act (AMA) that went into effect in February 2019 impacted the steps to take if you disagree with your VA disability rating. A Michigan VA Disability Attorney can represent you through the appeals process and protect your rights.

Three Possible Appeal Paths

Many people who apply for disability benefits from the VA do not agree with the initial decision the VA reaches about their disability rating and the resulting amount of benefits they will receive. If you find yourself in the situation, the VA offers a new appeal process under the AMA. 

The AMA split the VA disability claim appeal process into three different lanes. Your three options are: 

  • Supplemental Claim
  • Higher-Level Review
  • Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board)

You will need to select which of the three appeal paths you wish to take when you disagree with the decision of the VA about your application for disability benefits. 

Supplemental Claim

The supplemental claim option is for people who have new evidence that they did not submit when they filed their initial application for VA disability benefits. This evidence should be relevant to the claim, particularly information that could have caused a positive outcome in the initial decision.

Higher-Level Review

If you think the VA made a mistake in the initial decision, you might want to select the Higher-Level review (HLR) option. For example, a clerical error or some other simple mistake could get corrected at this level of review. The VA advises people that the first two options, Supplemental Claim and Higher-Level review, offer a quicker resolution than the third option, which is an Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board). It’s important to note that an HLR can only be filed once in the life of a claim. 

Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board)

An Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) is the most formal of the three options. Not surprisingly, a Board appeal takes the longest time of the three options. If you select a Board appeal, you will need to choose among three more paths, Direct Review, Evidence Submission, and Hearing with a Veterans Law Judge (VLJ).

Board Appeal – Three More Choices

People who disagree with the initial decision from the VA on their disability claim and select a Board appeal must then choose one of these three options:

  • Direct Review. If you think the VA misinterpreted the facts of your case or the law, you might want to select this path, which has the shortest timeline of Board appeals. This path does not involve submitting additional evidence to the Board.
  • Evidence Submission. You can submit additional evidence to the Board using this path option. With this option, you are not questioning whether the VA misinterpreted what you previously submitted. You are merely supplementing the evidence for the Board to consider when it reviews your case on appeal.
  • If you wish to have a Hearing with a Veterans Law Judge (VLJ), you will need to choose the Hearing path, which takes the longest of the three Board appeal options. Not surprisingly, this option also takes the longest of all possible options under the AMA’s new procedures.

Each of these VA appeal options has strict rules and deadlines. If you miss a deadline, you could lose the right to appeal the VA’s initial decision on your disability claim. With so much at stake, it would be a smart decision to work with a Michigan VA Disability Attorney if you are unhappy with the VA’s initial decision on your request for disability benefits. Get in touch with our office today for legal assistance, we offer a free consultation.