Unlocking Your Rights – Understanding the VA Decision Appeal System


Interpreting your VA decision letter can be difficult, mainly if it includes requesting additional information or documentation. It can slow down the review process significantly.

The process of appealing VA disability claims can be challenging and time-consuming, but an experienced attorney can assist you in navigating through it with ease.

Your Right to a Hearing

When appeal VA decision, the judge who hears your case will want to understand why you disagree with the decisions that led to your claim denial. During your hearing, you and your representative (if you have one) will talk directly to the judge about why you disagree.

The judge will also review any new evidence you submit during your hearing or within 90 days after the hearing date. Adding new evidence will increase the time it takes for the Board to review your appeal to a final decision, which averages about 365 days (1 year).

If you don’t report to a scheduled hearing, or if you cancel or reschedule it, you must give the VSCM good cause. You can do this in writing, by email, fax, or telephone, and you should promptly complete VA Form 27-0820 to document the request. 

Your Right to Submit New Evidence

Under the new VA decision appeals process, you can submit supplemental evidence to help prove your case. This is especially helpful if you receive a rating decision that isn’t favorable.

You can select your appeal lane when you file your NOD, although you can change your mind later. The goal is to get the best possible outcome with your limited resources.

If you choose the direct review option, a veterans law judge will review your appeal based on what’s already in your claims file. This is the least expensive option, but it can take 365 days (a year) for a Board to complete your appeal.

The other option is the evidence submission docket, which allows you to submit any new evidence that supports your claim for benefits. The VA must assist you in finding this type of evidence, and their goal is for the supplemental claims docket to be adjudicated within 125 days.

Your Right to Change Your Appeal Lane

The Appeals Modernization Act (AMA) created several appeals “lanes” for veterans. It’s important to understand that your choice of review option will impact how long your case will take to complete. When choosing which lane to proceed, it is often best to seek the assistance of a professional veterans service organization, veteran’s law attorney, or VA-accredited agent.

The higher-level review lane is designed for veterans who want another decision from a more experienced rating specialist but want to avoid submitting additional evidence or having a hearing. It’s estimated that this lane will take 365 days to finish on average.

The direct docket lane is the fastest lane at the Board, but it does not allow you to submit any new evidence and does not provide the opportunity for a hearing before a Veterans Law Judge. This lane is best suited for cases where the crux of your claim involves a legal issue rather than a factual matter.

Your Right to Represent Yourself

Suppose you disagree with the decision in your rating decision or service-connection determination. In that case, you have one year from the date of your rating decision Notification Letter to file a request for review. Getting VA-accredited legal representation early in the process is often the best way to ensure your rights are protected throughout the appeals process, and you choose the correct path for your case.

The VA’s legacy appeals process was changed on February 19, 2019. Veterans with unfavorable rating decisions before that date can opt-in to the new system by checking the appropriate box on the SOC/SSOC form they submit to move their case to the modernized appeals lane.If you choose to do this, you can request a hearing with a Veteran Law Judge for your case. You have the right to represent yourself at a hearing, but you should be prepared to present your case to a veteran law judge if the case is remanded back to the Board for further consideration.