During the Department of Veterans Affairs claims process, veterans look forward to the notification letter that explains the VA’s decision and details the benefits granted. However, some claims are denied or are granted at lower ratings that hoped for. Veterans who disagree with claim decisions have two options. They may file a notice of disagreement to begin the appeals process, or they may reopen the claim by filing for reconsideration. Reopen claims over the phone, online or in person at the VA regional office.
Determine Appropriate Response
Veterans may appeal a VA decision for any reason, but a notice of disagreement must be filed within one year of the date on the notification letter. The appeals process is lengthy; it may take several years for your regional office to review your appeal and additional years before the Board of Veterans Appeals issues a decision. Veterans may reopen claims at any time after the claim decision is final. Reopened claims are processed much faster than appeals; claims take from a few months to a year for completion. However, a claim may be reopened only if the veteran can produce new and material evidence. While some veterans use the services of an attorney during the appeals process, it’s not necessary for a reopened claim.
Obtain New and Material Evidence
Review your rating narrative to see a list of the evidence the VA considered when your claim was completed. Submit a recent exam or medical opinion, additional medical records or buddy statements that support your claim. Evidence must not only be new; it must be directly relevant to the contentions that were originally denied. If the evidence you produce with your application does not meet the VA’s requirements for a reopened claim, you will be notified to provide additional documentation.
Initiate a Reopened Claim
To initiate a reopened claim, contact the VA at 1-800-827-1000. A legal administrative specialist will notify the regional office of your intent to reopen the claim. Submit VA Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation, by mail, fax or online via eBenefits. Include all the new and material evidence you’ve gathered. You have one year from the date you initiate the claim to provide the necessary evidence; otherwise, the claim is considered abandoned and will be closed. Reopened claims are processed in the same manner as standard claims. Completion time depends on the specifics of the claim and the VA regional office’s workload.
Your local VA regional office provides one-on-one assistance with reopened claims. You may seek help from an accredited representative or service organization such as Disabled American Veterans or American Legion. Representatives are vetted and accredited by the VA to ensure they are knowledgeable and competent.