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Veterans’ Disability: An Overview of the Three ‘Lanes’ of Appeal

Veterans' Disability AttorneyThe veteran’s disability claims process has long been complicated. In an effort to simplify and streamline appeals, federal lawmakers passed the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017. Among other things, the law created three separate “lanes” for challenging an adverse decision — giving veterans more flexibility to fight an unfairly low disability rating or disability denial. Here, attorney Harold W. Conick provides an overview of the three different options for appeal.

Supplemental Claim

Through a supplemental claim, a disabled veteran can submit new or more comprehensive evidence in support of the same or substantially similar claim that has already been filed. It is the least complicated way to file an appeal. A supplemental claim may be appropriate for veterans who have a fundamental defect with their initial application, which can be rectified with additional evidence. You have the right to file a supplemental claim after any type of adjudicative action by the VA. In other words, if you receive a poor rating decision or an unfavorable board decision, you may be able to resolve the matter through a supplemental claim. 

Higher-Level Review 

Sometimes, a supplemental claim will not be effective to address a denial as it is a lane best for veterans who have new and relevant evidence to provide. If you already provided enough information, but you believe the VA made the wrong decision, a different lane is appropriate. You can seek a ‘higher-level review’ of your disability claim. With this option, a new (more experienced) claims evaluator will be brought in to take a fresh look at your case. A higher-level review is a ‘de novo’ assessment — meaning the process essentially starts over. No weight is given to the VA’s initial adverse decision. Notably, you cannot submit new evidence at this stage. If you have new relevant evidence, a supplemental claim is probably the best path forward.

Appeal to the Veterans’ Board of Appeal

Finally, the more traditional ‘Notice of Disagreement’ approach largely remains in place. You can appeal your adverse rating decision or disability denial directly to the Veterans’ Board of Appeal. Under the new reforms, some of the obstacles to filing this type of appeal have been removed. However, Board appeals are still complex. You will be required to select one of three tracks within the appeals process: A Direct Docket Review, a Hearing Docket, or an Evidence Docket. The best approach depends entirely on the specific facts of your case. If you are considering challenging a denial directly to the Veterans’ Board of Appeal, it is imperative you consult with an experienced VA disability attorney.

Call Our Greater Chicago Metropolitan Area Veterans’ Disability Lawyer for Help

At Harold W. Conick & Associates Ltd., our veterans’ disability attorney is a tough, experienced advocate for clients. If your VA disability claim was denied, we are here to help. To schedule a free, completely confidential review of your claim, please contact us right away. With an office in Lisle, we handle veterans’ disability claims throughout the Chicago Metropolitan Area.