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 an appeal. Appealing a VA decision with a VA supplemental claim can give you the opportunity to present new evidence that wasn’t available for the VA to consider when it made its previous decision.
Navigating the process to obtain VA disability benefits can be frustrating and difficult to understand. This article will explain how filing a supplemental claim could help you get the VA disability benefits you deserve.
In this article about filing a VA supplemental claim
What to do when a VA disability claim is denied
The VA denies claims for a variety of reasons. One common reason is due to lack of evidence. The VA may need more medical documentation about your condition or additional evidence that it is service-connected.
Regardless of the reason for a denial, an appeal could lead the VA to make a new rating decision. There are three ways you can appeal a VA decision. You can submit a supplemental claim, request a higher-level review (HLR), or file a Notice of Disagreement with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA).
What is a VA supplemental claim?
“The difference between a supplemental claim and an initial claim is that a supplemental claim has to be supported by new and relevant evidence,” said VA disability lawyer Lori Underwood.
This means if you choose the supplemental claim lane you cannot just resubmit the same evidence you did the first time you submitted the claim. New and relevant evidence is information that supports your claim that has not been presented in a previous claim.
Supplemental claims are presented to the VA regional office and go through a similar process as new claims.
If you disagree with a VA decision and want to file an appeal but don’t have new and relevant evidence to present, you can request an HLR at the regional office (described in the previous section) or you can appeal to the BVA through the direct review docket or the hearing docket.
Using a supplemental claim to appeal a VA decision
“You can use a supplemental claim as a tool to appeal within the one-year timeframe of an unfavorable decision in the AMA and keep your effective date rolling,” Underwood said.
Supplemental claims can not be used to appeal a decision the VA made years ago, but they can be used as a way to reopen a prior claim using new and relevant evidence.
For example, if you were denied a service connection for PTSD in 1981 and you did not appeal the decision, that decision became final. But if you have new evidence from a doctor who says you have PTSD related to service, you could request the new evidence be considered along with evidence of your initial claim.
“What this would do would reopen that prior final decision that denied service connection for PTSD so that you can continue to adjudicate service connection for that condition,” Underwood said. “It would not, though, open your prior effective date.”
Evidence for a supplemental claim
If you file a supplemental claim, what kind of evidence can help your case?
First, you should know that the VA is required to help veterans gather the evidence necessary for disability benefits claims. 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.
Medical evidence that can support a supplemental claim includes private medical records, in-service records, and VA records.
New medical evidence can include:
- Enlistment and separation examinations
- Reports from doctors
- X-rays and MRIs
- Laboratory test results
- Psychologist reports
- Documentation from your C-file
“They did good by me. I am sick, and the VA was stalling. They got me 100% permanent and total.“
You can also provide the VA with lay statements from family, friends, other service members, and employers.
To submit statements from people who know how your service-connected conditions affect your life, use a Statement in Support of Claim form. Be aware, the VA also has a form with a similar name called a Statement in Support of Claim for Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome which is to provide documentation of stressful incidents that occurred during service.
Supplemental claims and TDIU
Many veterans who have service-connected disabilities cannot work due to the physical limitations of their conditions. That circumstance entitles veterans to a benefit called total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU).
Perhaps, the VA denied your TDIU claim because the evidence wasn’t clear that you are not able to maintain substantially gainful employment. In that case, you may want to file a supplemental claim to present additional medical records or employment documentation to strengthen your claim.
VA supplemental claim timeline
The VA’s goal for issuing decisions on supplemental claims and on higher-level review requests is 125 days. Wait times for BVA appeals are much longer. A BVA appeal can take at least one year for veterans who choose the direct docket or evidence lanes. Veterans who request a BVA hearing can wait multiple years for a decision.
Supplemental claim success rate
Finding information about VA claim success rates is a challenge. A search through the agency’s frequently published reports revealed data for higher-level review and BVA decision outcomes but not for supplemental claims.
How Woods and Woods can help
The process of filing a supplemental claim and providing new and relevant evidence can be complex and overwhelming. If you’re a veteran who was denied VA disability benefits for your service-connected condition, the VA disability lawyers at Woods and Woods can help you file a supplemental claim.
A family-owned business since 1985, our lawyers have helped veterans across the country get the maximum disability benefits they deserve for their injuries and illnesses. Our focus is on helping veterans who are unable to work. We also help the surviving spouses of deceased service members in receiving the benefits they deserve.
Woods and Woods never charges an upfront fee to help you apply for disability benefits or file a supplemental claim — you only pay if we win your VA disability benefits case.
The VA’s goal is to decide on supplemental claims within 125 days of receiving the forms.
You have one year from when the VA makes its decision to file an appeal if you wish to maintain the effective date of your original claim.