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Appeal to Higher-Level Review

Definition An Appeal to Higher-Level Review is a request from a veteran or claimant in the Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits process. It asks for a new evaluation of their claim decision by a more experienced adjudicator. This review aims to identify errors in the original decision, potentially resulting in a change to the claim’s outcome. […]


An Appeal to Higher-Level Review is a request from a veteran or claimant in the Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits process. It asks for a new evaluation of their claim decision by a more experienced adjudicator. This review aims to identify errors in the original decision, potentially resulting in a change to the claim’s outcome.

Key Takeaways

  1. An Appeal to Higher-Level Review is a request made by a veteran to have a more experienced Veterans Affairs adjudicator review their case and make a new decision based on the evidence in the existing record.
  2. During a Higher-Level Review, no new evidence can be submitted, ensuring the focus remains on the accuracy and correctness of the initial decision based on the original information provided.
  3. In addition to a Higher-Level Review, veterans have other options such as filing a Supplemental Claim with additional evidence or directly appealing to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals for reconsideration.


The VA benefits term, “Appeal to Higher-Level Review,” is important because it allows veterans who disagree with the initial decision made on their claim for benefits to seek further evaluation from a more senior decision-maker.

This process ensures that veterans have the opportunity to have their claims reassessed and potentially receive fairer compensation for their service-connected disabilities or benefits they may be entitled to.

By offering an additional level of review, the VA demonstrates its commitment to serving veterans, addressing their concerns, and improving the accuracy and consistency of its decision-making process.


The appeal to Higher-Level Review is a significant facet of the VA benefits system, whose primary purpose is to ensure that veterans are granted the appropriate level of benefits and disability compensation by giving them the opportunity to appeal their claims when dissatisfied with the initial decision. This review process enables veterans to have their cases reassessed by a more experienced and higher authority within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), providing an additional layer of fairness and accuracy when it comes to determining the rightful entitlements of those who have served.

As such, the Higher-Level Review is essential in safeguarding veterans’ interests and upholding the integrity of the VA benefits system. In practice, the Higher-Level Review is an invaluable tool for veterans seeking to challenge certain decisions made by the VA regarding their benefits, such as a disagreement over the assigned disability rating or effective date.

By choosing the Higher-Level Review option, the veteran has their case re-evaluated by a senior-level adjudicator with a more thorough and comprehensive understanding of the VA regulations, policies, and procedures. This comprehensive and unbiased review aims to rectify any potential errors or overlooked evidence that may have occurred in the initial decision-making process, thereby ensuring that veterans receive the appropriate level of benefits in a timely and efficient manner.

In essence, the appeal to Higher-Level Review underscores the VA’s commitment to providing accurate, fair, and just support to the men and women who have selflessly served their country.

Examples of Appeal to Higher-Level Review

Example 1: A veteran who has been receiving disability benefits for a service-related injury submits a claim for an increased disability rating due to the worsening of their condition. The VA Regional Office reviews the claim and decides not to grant an increase in the disability rating. The veteran believes this decision is incorrect and decides to appeal to a Higher-Level Review. In this instance, the veteran requests a more experienced adjudicator to review their case and reconsider the initial decision.

Example 2: A surviving spouse of a deceased veteran submits a claim for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), which is meant to provide financial support to the survivors of veterans who have died due to service-related conditions. The VA denies the claim, stating that the veteran’s death was not directly related to their military service. The surviving spouse believes there is sufficient evidence to support their claim. In this example, they would appeal to a Higher-Level Review, seeking another evaluation of the case by a senior adjudicator.

Example 3: A veteran has been receiving VA benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from their military service. They apply for additional benefits, such as vocational rehabilitation and employment services, to help them find suitable employment. The VA denies their application, arguing that the veteran does not meet the eligibility requirements for the program. The veteran feels that the decision is incorrect and wants their case reevaluated. In this example, they would submit an Appeal to a Higher-Level Review to have a more experienced adjudicator look at their case and determine if they are eligible for the additional benefits.

FAQ: Appeal to Higher-Level Review

What is a Higher-Level Review?

A Higher-Level Review is a type of appeal where a more experienced adjudicator, known as a Higher-Level Reviewer, reviews a veteran’s initial claim decision. The reviewer looks at all the evidence on file and considers the errors the claimant or their representative has identified in the initial decision. The main goal of a Higher-Level Review is to get a new decision on a VA benefits claim without submitting new evidence.

How do I request a Higher-Level Review?

To request a Higher-Level Review, you must submit VA Form 20-0996 (Decision Review Request: Higher-Level Review) to the VA. You can submit this form online through your VA.gov account, by mail, or by fax. Contact the VA for specific mailing addresses and fax numbers. Ensure you provide all required information, including your name, contact details, and information about the initial claim decision you’re appealing.

How long do I have to request a Higher-Level Review?

You have one year from the date of the VA’s initial decision letter to request a Higher-Level Review. If you miss this deadline, you may still appeal, but you will have to use the Supplemental Claim process, which requires submitting new evidence to support your claim.

Can I submit new evidence for a Higher-Level Review?

No, you cannot submit new evidence during a Higher-Level Review. The reviewer will only consider the evidence that was already in your VA file at the time of the initial decision. If you have new evidence to submit, you should consider appealing through a Supplemental Claim instead.

How long does a Higher-Level Review take?

While the processing time for a Higher-Level Review may vary, the VA aims to complete these reviews within 125 days. You can check the status of your review on your VA.gov account or by contacting the VA directly.

Can I appeal further if I’m still not satisfied with the Higher-Level Review outcome?

Yes, if you are not satisfied with the outcome of your Higher-Level Review, you can appeal through the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). You have 90 days from the date the VA sends the Higher-Level Review decision letter to file an appeal with the BVA. In this stage, you can submit new evidence and request a hearing, if desired.

Related VA Benefit Terms

  • Board of Veterans’ Appeals
  • Supplemental Claim
  • Decision Review Officer
  • Veterans Benefits Administration
  • Notice of Disagreement

Sources for More Information

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