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VA Higher Level Review: A Complete Guide for Veterans

Navigating the VA higher level review process is a critical task for veterans seeking a board appeal for a decision review on their VA claim. It’s a complex process with multiple stages, and understanding it can be a challenge. This article will explore the process, its importance to veterans, and how to navigate its intricacies […]

Navigating the VA higher level review process is a critical task for veterans seeking a board appeal for a decision review on their VA claim. It’s a complex process with multiple stages, and understanding it can be a challenge. This article will explore the process, its importance to veterans, and how to navigate its intricacies successfully. Understanding the VA higher level review is significant because it provides veterans with the chance to have their claims reconsidered without resorting to court appeals.

Understanding VA Higher Level Review

The VA Higher Level Review is an appeal option available to veterans if they disagree with the initial decision on their VA benefit claim from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It offers an opportunity for a more senior and experienced VA staff, called a “senior reviewer,” to take a second look at the VA claim. This senior reviewer examines the disability benefits claim without adding new evidence and makes a determination based on the existing evidence in the VA form and the veteran’s file.

The Difference between Standard Appeal and Higher Level Review

While both standard appeal and higher level review aim to address veterans claims and disagreements with a VA benefits decision, the procedures they follow vastly differ. In a standard appeal, you can introduce additional evidence and have a hearing. However, with the higher level review, new evidence isn’t added. Instead, it focuses on reviewing the initial decision to ensure that no errors were made during the original review.

Consider a case where a veteran, Peter, appeals his initial VA disability claim decision. In a standard appeal, he could present new medical records, recordings, or statements. But if Peter opts for a higher level review, no new evidence will be considered. Instead, the senior reviewer will strictly base his decision on the evidence previously provided.

The VA Higher Level Review Process

Initiating a VA Higher Level Review requires the veteran or their representative to submit a “VA Form 20-0996, Decision Review Request: Higher-Level Review.” Once the request is received, a senior reviewer, experienced in the area of the claim, reviews the case.

The senior reviewer carefully examines all the evidence in the veteran’s file at the time VA made the decision under review. In some cases, the veteran may be offered an informal conference to discuss their case, providing an opportunity for them to point out any errors they believe occurred in the initial decision. Finally, the senior reviewer makes a determination, which can uphold or overturn the original decision on the disability claim.

Reasons to Request a VA Higher Level Review

There are various reasons why a veteran might request a higher level review. Perhaps the veteran believes the VA made an error in its initial decision. Or, there may be a misunderstanding about the veteran’s condition or the evidence provided.

Requesting a higher level review can come with several benefits. It is, typically, a quicker procedure than a standard appeal. But, it’s not without risks. The lack of opportunity to present new evidence can be a disadvantage. If the claim requires additional evidence, a different review route may be more desirable.

Common Issues in the VA Higher Level Review

Although the VA Higher Level Review process is designed to help veterans, it has its challenges. Sometimes, veterans might struggle with the complexities of the process or face delays in getting their reviews processed.

To avoid these issues, ensure your initial claim is thoroughly documented, clearly communicating all relevant information. Having a well-documented claim can make the higher level review smoother since no new evidence is considered in this procedure.

VA Higher Level Review Outcome

The VA Higher Level Review can result in either a favorable decision, where the original decision is altered to support the veteran’s claim, or an unfavorable one, where the initial decision stands. Regardless of the outcome, it’s essential to determine the next course of action. If the review is favorable, follow up on the VA’s obligations. If unfavorable, veterans may want to consider other appeal options or seek assistance from a veterans’ service officer or an attorney.

Tips for a Successful VA Higher Level Review

Success in the VA Higher Level Review largely hinges on a well-prepared case and a thorough understanding of the process. “Messy or incomplete initial submissions can significantly complicate the review process,” suggests John, a veteran who successfully navigated his review. He advises veterans to consult with professionals who understand the process. Additional tips include clearly documenting claims and carefully filling out review request forms.


Understanding the VA Higher Level Review process is crucial for veterans seeking to appeal the VA’s decision on their benefits claim. Veterans need to pay keen attention to every detail of their claims and prepare adequately for each review stage. The success or failure of a review can significantly impact the quality of life after service; hence, it’s important to optimize the chances of a successful review.

For veterans or their representatives grumbling about the complexities of the VA disability claim review process, knowledge is power – be empowered. Understand the procedure, consult with professionals, or even sync with fellow veterans who have gone through the process. Remember that your service was invaluable, and so should your quality of life post-service. Arm yourself with knowledge and fight for your rights with the same grit and resilience demonstrated during service. Take your well-deserved next step toward a successful VA Review.

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