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Higher-Level Reviews

If you disagree with VA’s decision, you can request to have a senior reviewer take a new look at your case. The reviewer will determine whether the decision can be changed based on a difference of opinion or an error.

Can I request a Higher-Level Review?

You can request a Higher-Level Review of an initial claim or Supplemental Claim decision. You have one year from the date on your decision letter to request a Higher-Level Review. 

This option isn’t available after a previous Higher-Level Review or Board Appeal on the same claim. It’s also not available if you have a contested claim (this is rare).

Note:

  • You can’t submit any evidence.

  • You and/or your representative can speak with the reviewer on the phone. You can tell them why you think the decision should be changed and identify errors. 

How long does it take VA to make a decision?

4-5 months

Our goal for completing Higher-Level Reviews is an average of 125 days.

What should I expect if I request a call with a senior reviewer?

If you request an informal conference with a senior reviewer, they’ll call the phone number that you or your representative provided on the Higher-Level Review form to schedule a time to discuss your case with you. During the call, you and/or your representative can talk about why you think the decision should be changed and identify errors, but you cannot submit new evidence.

Note: The senior reviewer will try to reach you or your representative by phone, and if no one answers, they’ll leave a voicemail. If the senior reviewer is unable to leave a message or make contact after 2 attempts, they’ll proceed with their review and issue a decision.

How do I request a Higher-Level Review?

To request a Higher-Level Review, fill out the Decision Review Request: Higher-Level Review (VA Form 20-0996). 

Download VA Form 20-0996 (PDF)

  1. Select a benefit type in Part I of the form

    The most common benefit type is compensation, but if you’re unsure, check your VA decision. You can’t select multiple benefit types. You have to complete a separate form for each type.

  2. Optional: Request a call (informal conference) with the reviewer

    Note:  You and/or your representative can speak with the reviewer on the phone. You can tell them why you think the decision should be changed and identify errors. 

    To schedule an informal conference, select times and list a phone number in Part II of the form. A reviewer will call 2 to 4 weeks after VA processes your request.

  3. List the issue(s) you want reviewed in Part III of the form

    You can include all or just some of the issues VA has decided. You’ll need to list the issue(s) you disagree with and the VA decision date for each.

    Note: You can’t submit any evidence.

    What if I have new and relevant evidence? 

    If you have evidence to submit, please select another decision review option.
    Learn more about the decision review options

  4. Apply

    Fill out the Decision Review Request: Higher-Level Review (VA Form 20-0996). 
    Download VA Form 20-0996 (PDF)

    Submit your application by mail, in person, or by fax

    By mail

    Send the completed form to the benefit office that matches the benefit type you selected on the form.

    Compensation

    Department of Veterans Affairs
    Claims Intake Center
    PO Box 4444
    Janesville, WI 53547-4444

    In person

    Bring your completed form to a regional benefit office. 
    Find a regional benefit office near you

    By fax 

    Fax your completed form and any supporting documents to 844-531-7818. 

    You can also ask a regional benefit office for a copy of this form to fill out. Or you can call the VA toll-free hotline at 800-827-1000, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. ET, to request a form.

  • Pension/Survivors benefits

    If you live in AK, AZ, CA, CO, HI, ID, IA, KS, MN, MT, NB, NV, NM, ND, OK, OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, WY, Mexico, Central America, South America, or the Caribbean

    Department of Veterans Affairs
    Claims Intake Center
    Attention: St. Paul Pension Center 
    PO Box 5365
    Janesville, WI 53547-5365
    Fax: 844-655-1604

    If you live in CT, DE, FL, GA, ME, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, NC, PA, RI, SC, VT, VA, WV, DC, Puerto Rico, or Canada

    Department of Veterans Affairs
    Claims Intake Center
    Attention: Philadelphia Pension Center
    PO Box 5206
    Janesville, WI 53547-5206
    Fax: 844-655-1604

    If you live in AL, AR, IL, IN, KY, LA, MI, MS, MO, OH, TN, or WI

    Department of Veterans Affairs
    Claims Intake Center
    Attention: Milwaukee Pension Center
    PO Box 5192
    Janesville, WI 53547-5192
    Fax: 844-655-1604

    National Cemetery Administration

    Please refer to your
    decision for instructions
    on how to submit the
    form.

    Education

    Please refer to your
    decision for instructions
    on how to submit the
    form.

    Veterans Health Administration

    Please refer to your
    decision for instructions
    on how to submit the
    form.

    Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E)

    Please refer to your
    decision for instructions
    on how to submit the
    form.

    Insurance

    Please refer to your
    decision for instructions
    on how to submit the
    form.

    Loan guaranty

    Please refer to your
    decision for instructions
    on how to submit the
    form.

What happens next?

Find out what happens after you request a decision review

You don’t need to do anything while you wait, unless VA sends you a letter asking for more information. If VA schedules exams for you, be sure not to miss them.

If you’ve filed a request for a Higher-Level Review, we may randomly select you to receive an email with a short, optional survey. If selected, you’ll get a survey within 10 days of the date on your notification letter. You aren’t required to fill it out, but your feedback will help us improve the new decision reviews process. It takes about 3 minutes to answer the questions. Please review your VA.gov profile to make sure we have your most recent email address. Find out how to update your email address.

What if I need help?

A Veterans Service Organization or VA-accredited attorney or agent can help you request a decision review. 
Get help requesting a decision review

What if I have more questions?

Get answers to frequently asked questions about decision reviews. 
Go to FAQs

What if I get a Higher-Level Review decision that I don’t agree with?

You can then file for a Board Appeal, which means your case gets reviewed by a Veterans Law Judge. You also have the option to file a Supplemental Claim if you have additional evidence you want to submit for review. 

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