VA Appeals Process: What to Expect and How to Get Help

As of February 19, 2019, there’s a new VA appeals process in place for veterans with denied benefits claims. This is the result of Congress passing the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act in 2017. Below, we’ll explain each step in the new (and hopefully faster!) VA appeals process for denied veterans benefits claims.

Step 1 In the VA Appeals Process: Request a Decision Review

If the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) denies your claim, you have one year to request a decision review. This is the first step in your VA appeals process, and there are three different options you can take:

  1. File a VA supplemental claim that includes new or more relevant evidence. To do this, download and complete VA Form 20-0995 now. Choose this option if you filed a claim for a new condition that’s only gotten worse. You can include updated treatment notes from your doctor. If you sought treatment at more than one VA hospital, ask to transfer any medical records that help support your case.
  2. Request a higher-level review from a senior VA official. This option’s relatively fast and easy. In fact, you can choose this option after your initial OR supplemental application gets denied. All you’re doing here is asking a different person with more experience and authority to review your claim again. You cannot include any additional evidence beyond what you sent with your prior application. However, you can call the reviewer and explain on the phone why you believe your denial was wrong. You can also explain any errors on your original application. To get started, download VA Form 20-0996 now.
  3. Ask a Washington, D.C. judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals to review your case. To choose this option, download and fill out VA Form 10182. You don’t have to travel to D.C. for your own hearing, either. Instead, you can complete this step in the VA appeals process remotely. Go to any VA location near you, then video conference into your own hearing from there. It’ll take longer if you submit new evidence for the judge’s consideration, but that’s completely up to you.

Step 2 In the VA Appeals Process: Wait For Your Decision

If you chose option #1 or #2 above, the VA’s goal is to complete your decision review within 125 days. That’s about four or five months, depending on which date you filed your appeal. This step in the VA appeals process typically takes longer if you schedule a new exam or transfer medical records.

But if you chose option #3, expect to wait about a year for your decision. That’s because the Board needs time to schedule your hearing and render their decision first. However, that timeline only applies to cases that don’t present any additional evidence for consideration. And if you do submit new evidence for the judge to review, it may take even longer. If you want to appear and plead your case in person, expect to wait closer to 18 months. This is, by far, the VA appeals process step that takes the most time.

In addition, bear in mind that you can request a Board appeal after completing option #2 and #3 first. Unfortunately, you cannot request two Board appeals from the VA in a row for the same claim. If you make it through all three VA appeals process options and still aren’t happy, then what? The VA appeals process doesn’t have to end there.

Step 3 in the VA Appeals Process: File a Court Appeal

This step in the VA appeals process gets a little bit trickier. For this reason, we recommend getting a VA-accredited lawyer to handle it for you. Of course, you can represent yourself. For this step, you must request that the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims review the Board’s decision. You must do this within 120 days from the date you received the Board’s decision about your claim. If you wait too long, you’ll lose your chance and must start over from scratch.

However, there is one other option available if you have new or more compelling evidence that supports your claim. If that applies to your case, go back to Step 1 and file another VA supplemental claim. Be sure to include all new medical evidence you think best supports your application for benefits.

The new VA appeals process is supposed to make everything go faster for veterans with denied claims. But what the VA doesn’t mention is the value of having an attorney file your claim in the first place. Imagine that your first claim’s wrongly denied because it contains a few errors on the form. Or maybe you didn’t include any medical evidence to support your claim when you filed. An attorney prevents both those scenarios from happening in the first place!

Every lawyer in our network offers free, no-obligation consultations to help veterans like you with their VA claims. That means you can ask all the claim questions you like and get confidential legal advice for free. Think the VA made the wrong decision about your claim? You can get a second opinion from an attorney free of charge. Can’t afford to purchase your own medical records to include with your application? That’s the kind of thing most attorneys do for clients. These lawyers always work on contingency. That means you’ll pay nothing now for legal assistance with your claim. If you don’t win benefits with an attorney’s help during the VA appeals process, then you pay $0. And if your case does win, you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.

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Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity,, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.