Filing for VA disability benefits can be a lengthy and often frustrating process for many veterans. If you were denied benefits, or have completed the appeals process unsuccessfully, you may have another option to consider other than starting the process over by reapplying.
That option? Contact your VA regional office to request to reopen your claim.
When You Can Reopening a Claim
Veterans are allowed to reopen any claim where the VA’s decision was finalized. There are basically two different instances where a claim can be reopened:
- You missed your appeal deadline.
- You went through the entire appeals process.
Criteria to Reopen a VA Disability Claim
In order to reopen a VA disability claim, the claim must be eligible because of one of the aforementioned instances (the appeals deadline was missed, or you went through the entire appeals process first).
The claim must also be one of the following:
- Dependency indemnity compensation (DIC)
- Service-connected VA disability compensation
- Burial Benefits
There also must be “new and relevant evidence” that the veteran has secured, which is a regulatory change from the “new and material” evidence standard the VA used to apply.
The unfortunate downside of missing an appeal deadline and having to reopen your claim, is that when you do so, you receive a new effective date.
With this in mind, claims should be reopened as soon as possible to be able to secure the earliest possible effective date, which will allow them the highest compensation available.
VA Form 20-0995 – Supplemental Claim
To reopen a claim, a veteran must submit VA Form 20-0995. Once this form is submitted with any new and material evidence that was collected, your VA claim will be reviewed, and a new decision will be issued.
Supplying New and Material Evidence
In order for a VA disability claim to be reopened by the VA, a veteran must submit new and material evidence.
New evidence means that whatever is submitted was not previously given to the VA during the prior filing process. It must be the first time that the evidence is submitted.
Material evidence must relate to why your previous claim was denied. You can understand why your previous claim was denied through your notification letter or ratings decision that you received following your initial application for VA disability benefits.
By reviewing these documents, you can ensure what you are submitting in an attempt to reopen your claim, is relevant to your case.
What if the VA Says the Evidence is Not New/Relevant?
Sometimes the VA will argue that the evidence the veteran submitted is not new or relevant, or they will apply the old standard of “new and material” evidence to a claim. If this happens, the veteran should consider an appeal at that point.
Backpay Awards and Effective Dates in Reopened Claims
As mentioned above, when a veteran reopens their claim, they are also establishing a new effective date for their claim. Because the claim is only reopened after a decision from the VA is finalized, a new effective date is always given.
All backpay will go back to the date you applied to have your claim reopened. The important thing to realize is that missing an appeal deadline could cost you substantially in backpay awards. Filing to appeal your claims on time is therefore, extremely important. Doing so preserves your effective date and ensures you receive the full disability compensation available.
There are some circumstances in which a prior ‘final’ decision may possibly be overturned, but this is very case-specific.
For more information regarding the appeals process, be sure to check out our Guide to the Court of Appeals.
If your VA claim was originally denied, you may be able to appeal the rating and receive VA disability compensation. The VA Disability lawyers at Hill & Ponton are available to help.
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