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Higher-Level Reviews

If you disagree with a VA decision, you or your representative can request a new review of your case by a higher-level reviewer. The reviewer will determine whether an error or a difference of opinion changes the decision. You can’t submit new evidence with a Higher-Level Review.

Can I request a Higher-Level Review?

You can request a Higher-Level Review of an initial claim or Supplemental Claim decision. You have 1 year from the date on your decision letter to request a Higher-Level Review. 

Note: You can’t request a Higher-Level Review after a previous Higher-Level Review or Board Appeal on the same claim. And you can’t request a Higher-Level Review if you have a contested claim.

Learn more about contested claims

How long does a Higher-Level Review take?

Our goal for completing claims that aren't related to health care benefits is an average of 125 days (4 to 5 months). 

Note: If you ask for an informal conference as part of your Higher-Level Review, it may take us longer to complete. Instead, you may want to consider submitting a written statement with your application to tell us about the errors you’ve identified. This will help us make a decision faster.

What’s an informal conference?

An informal conference is a call with the higher-level reviewer for your case. If you choose to have an informal conference, the reviewer will call to schedule a time to discuss your case with you. They’ll call the phone number that you provided on the Higher-Level Review form.

During the call, you or your representative can identify errors and discuss why you think the decision should change. You can’t submit new evidence.

If no one answers when the higher-level reviewer calls, they’ll leave a voicemail. If they can’t leave a message or make contact after 2 attempts, they’ll review and decide your case without an informal conference. 

How do I ask for an informal conference?

If you want a call with a higher-level reviewer, you’ll need to choose the informal conference option when you request a Higher-Level Review.

You’ll need to choose either a morning or afternoon time frame for your call. You’ll also need to choose whether you want us to call you or your representative. If you’d like us to call your representative, fill in their name and phone number.

If you request a Higher-Level Review online, you can ask for an informal conference in step 3 of the online form.

If you request a Higher-Level Review by mail or in person, you can ask for an informal conference by marking the circle in item 16A on VA Form 20-0996. 

Note: You can have only one informal conference for each Higher-Level Review. Make sure you have the information ready that you want to talk about with the reviewer. Prepare to explain any errors in your case.

How do I request a Higher-Level Review?

Submit your request online for a disability compensation claim

At this time, a disability compensation claim is the only type of claim you can use our online Higher-Level Review form for.

Request a Higher-Level Review

Note: For other types of claims, you’ll need to request a Higher-Level Review either by mail or in person.

Submit your request by mail for any type of benefit claim

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

Get VA Form 20-0996 to download

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

  • Disability compensation

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

  • Life insurance

Department of Veterans Affairs
Attention: Insurance Center
PO Box 5209
Janesville, WI 53547

  • Pension and survivor benefits

Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
PO Box 5365
Janesville, WI 53547-5365

  • Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC)

Department of Veterans Affairs
Evidence Intake Center
PO Box 5154
Janesville, WI 53547

  • Health care benefits and all other benefit types: Check the decision letter for your initial claim or application for instructions on how to submit the form.

Submit your request in person (only for claims that aren’t related to health care benefits)

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

Get VA Form 20-0996 to download

Bring your completed form to a VA regional office near you for claims that aren’t related to health care benefits.

Find your nearest VA regional office

You can also ask a regional benefit office for a copy of this form. Or call us at 800-827-1000 (TTY: 711) to request a form. We’re here Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. ET.

Helpful information for filling out your form

Keep reading for help completing certain sections of the Decision Review Request: Higher-Level Review (VA Form 20-0996). 

Section III: Select a benefit type

The most common benefit type is compensation. 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.

Section VI: List the issues you want us to review

You’ll need to list the issues you disagree with and the VA decision date for each. You can include all or just some of the issues we’ve decided, but they must all be within the same benefit type. 

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

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 about a week after we receive your initial claim. You’ll get a second survey about a week after you receive your decision notification letter. You aren’t required to fill out either survey, but your feedback will help us improve the decision review process. It takes about 3 minutes to answer the questions. Please review your profile to make sure we have your most recent email address.

Find out how to update your email address

What if the reviewer finds an error?

This depends on what type of error they find. In some cases, the error changes the original decision. We’ll send you a new decision to let you know about this change.

If the reviewer finds that we didn’t help you get all the evidence you needed for your claim, this is called a “duty-to-assist error.” To fix this error,  we’ll close the review and open a new claim to gather the missing evidence. We’ll also send you a letter to tell you the steps we’ll take to fix the error. Then we’ll help you get the missing evidence, and decide your case based on this new evidence.

What if I need help?

An accredited attorney, claims agent, or Veterans Service Organization (VSO) representative 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 decision review 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.