If you are a veteran whose VA disability benefits claim was denied, you may still be able to receive compensation for your service-connected disability by filing a supplemental claim.
The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act was signed into law on Aug. 23, 2017, allowing veterans to submit new and relevant evidence through the “Supplemental Claim Lane.” Even if you didn’t appeal the VA’s denial, filing a supplemental claim can give you the opportunity to present new evidence that wasn’t available for the VA to consider when it rendered its previous decision.
The Act also requires the VA to help veterans gather the evidence necessary for their supplemental claims and provide assistance during the higher-level review process. The VA aims to have supplemental claims completed within 125 days of filing.
Navigating the process to obtain VA disability benefits can be frustrating and confusing. Read on to learn more about filing a supplemental claim to get the VA disability benefits to which you’re entitled.
Topics We Cover on the Supplemental Claim Process
- Who Can File for VA Disability Benefits?
- Why Would a VA Disability Claim Be Denied and What Can I Do About It?
- What is a Supplemental Claim?
- What Evidence is Considered in a Supplemental Claim?
- What Kind of Medical Evidence Can I Submit for a Supplemental Claim?
- What Kind of Lay Evidence Can I Submit?
- When Do I Need to Submit a Supplemental Individual Unemployability Claim?
- What Kind of Disabilities Are Covered in a Supplemental Claim?
- How Do I Prove a Service-Connected Disability?
- How Do I File a Supplemental Claim?
VA disability benefits are paid monthly to veterans who have suffered from a service-connected injury or illness arising from their military service. They are federal and state tax-free. You may be entitled to receive disability benefits if your injury occurred during your time in the service or was aggravated while you were on active duty.
You may also be able to receive benefits for a condition that occurred after you were discharged as long as the disability is service-connected.
Your VA disability rating determines the amount of disability payment.
Who Can File for VA Disability Benefits?
To be eligible to receive VA disability benefits, you must have served in a branch of the U.S. military on active duty and have a disability, injury, or illness that is connected to your service. Only service members who were discharged under any status other than dishonorable conditions are entitled to receive disability benefits.
If the VA determines you are disabled, it will assign you a disability rating that will determine the amount of monthly payment you’re able to receive. Special monthly compensation is available to those with severe service-connected disabilities.
Why Would a VA Disability Claim Be Denied and What Can I Do About It?
The main reason a VA disability claim is denied is due to lack of evidence — this can mean that you didn’t provide enough medical documentation of your disability or sufficient evidence that it is service-connected. They will also deny you if you used incorrect forms when submitting your disability claim.
Regardless of the reason for denial, if you’re a veteran who is eligible for disability benefits, you can still pursue the “supplemental claim lane,” by submitting new and relevant evidence that may help the VA render a decision in your favor.
There are three ways you can effectively appeal a denial — through higher review, filing a Notice of Disagreement, or submitting a supplemental claim.
What is a Supplemental Claim?
A veteran can file a supplemental claim if you previously filed a claim for an injury or illness that was denied. If you disagree with the VA’s decision on your previous claim, the supplemental claim process allows you to provide new and relevant evidence supporting your previous claim.
The “supplemental claim lane” is not meant to be used to submit documentation of a worsening condition for an increase in disability payment. Instead, a supplemental claim is submitted when new evidence has arisen to support a claim that was denied.
You have one year from the time the VA rendered its decision on your disability claim to submit a supplemental claim.
Talk to Us About Your Claim: (866) 232-5777
What Evidence is Considered in a Supplemental Claim?
To file a supplemental claim for disability benefits, the VA requires that you submit new and relevant evidence. This means that you’re submitting proof of disability that the VA did not previously review to prove your claim.
It’s important to understand that you can’t simply resubmit the same evidence you did the first time you submitted your claim — your supplemental claim will not be accepted unless you provide new and relevant evidence.
Your supplemental claim should not be based on evidence that has already been reviewed by the VA. If you don’t have the necessary records, the VA can request them from a VA medical center, federal facility, or from your private doctor.
What Kind of Medical Evidence Can I Submit for a Supplemental Claim?
When you’re filing a supplemental claim with the VA for disability benefits, you can submit new and relevant medical evidence in support of your claim. This means, if you’ve been treated with a doctor who found new medical proof concerning your previously denied disability, it should be provided to the VA with your supplemental claim.
Medical evidence for a VA supplemental claim can include:
- Enlistment and separation examinations
- Reports from doctors
- X-rays and MRIs
- Laboratory test results
- Psychologist reports
- Documentation from your C-File
You aren’t limited to just records from the VA to support your supplemental claim for disability — private medical records may be submitted in addition to in-service records and records from the VA.
What Kind of Lay Evidence Can I Submit?
In addition to submitting medical evidence to support your supplemental claim, you can also provide the VA with lay evidence. The VA allows you to submit a Statement in Support of a Claim, which is a sworn statement that can be provided by anyone who knows about your disability and can help prove your claim. These individuals may include other servicemembers (known as a buddy statement), friends, family, your spouse, a member of the clergy, a law enforcement officer, or anyone else with whom you’ve addressed your disability.
The VA also has a separate Statement in Support of a Claim, which is specifically submitted to support a disability claim of service-connected PTSD. The form allows you to provide documentation of each stressful incident that occurred while you were in the service.
When Do I Need to Submit a Supplemental Individual Unemployability Claim?
Often, veterans facing a service-connected disability cannot work due to the physical limitations caused by their injury. If your disability causes you to be unemployed, you may have submitted a claim for total disability individual unemployability (TDIU). You also may have submitted employment records to prove your unemployability.
If you previously provided the VA with employment information and your claim was denied, the evidence may not have been presented adequately, or your medical documentation may not have been sufficient.
The VA may also deny your unemployability claim if you can work in a limited capacity. Just because you can work a little bit doesn’t mean you are capable of substantially gainful employment. In these cases, you may still be entitled to disability benefits.
If your claim was denied for any of these reasons, you may need to submit a supplemental IU claim to ensure you are compensated fairly for your disability.
What Kind of Disabilities Are Covered in a Supplemental Claim?
When you submit a supplemental claim, you’re not changing the basis of the claim you previously submitted — you’re claiming the same injury or illness that you did in your previous claim. However, you are providing the VA with new proof about the condition so that they can reassess the evidence of your claim and render a determination based on it.
VA disability benefits may be paid to compensate you for conditions such as:
- Depression and other mental health conditions
- Chronic back pain
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Severe loss of hearing
- Breathing problems and lung conditions
- Loss of range of motion
- Scar tissue complications
There are many other conditions for which the VA may provide compensation. You may also be eligible for disability compensation if you developed hypertension, peptic ulcers, arthritis, or diabetes within one year following your honorable discharge from the military. The VA presumes that these conditions are service-connected if they surface within that time frame.
How Do I Prove a Service-Connected Disability?
There are several ways to prove a service-connected disability. It can be shown by a direct, presumed, or secondary service connection, or by demonstrating you had a pre-existing injury that worsened during your time in the service — this can be either a physical or mental condition.
Sometimes, VA disability claims are denied if there is insufficient evidence that your disability is connected with your military service. Whether the records are no longer available or the existing records are not documented properly, it may be critical to gather new information to submit a supplemental claim.
While doctors’ reports are integral to showing that you have a service-connected disability, you can also supplement your claim by providing lay statements from friends and family, as well as buddy statements from other service members. Other evidence such as photographs and reports from psychologists may also be useful, depending on the disability you’re claiming.
How Do I File a Supplemental Claim?
The process of filing a supplemental claim can be complex and overwhelming. If you’re a veteran who was denied VA disability benefits for your service-connected injury, the VA disability lawyers at Woods and Woods can help you file a supplemental claim.
We have extensive knowledge of the evidence that will be needed to prove your disability and can help ensure you get a disability rating that accurately reflects the severity of your injury.
A family-owned business since 1985, our lawyers have helped countless veterans who are entitled to disability benefits get the maximum compensation they deserve for their injuries. We also assist the surviving spouses of deceased service members to obtain the benefits to which they’re entitled.
We never charge a fee to help you apply for disability benefits or file a supplemental claim — you only pay if we win your VA disability benefits case.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
The VA says that they will answer supplemental claims within 125 days from when they get the forms.
You have one year from when they make their decision. Since it may take a week or more to get their decision, make sure you count the days from the decision date, not the date you received the decision.
Buddy statements and lay statements, if you can get in contact with anyone in your division or old family and friends, are the easiest pieces of evidence to submit as supplemental evidence. We can help you gather and submit those documents.