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November 27, 2019

What is a VA Higher Level Review? 7 Key Points 

Last updated on April 12, 2024

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want to learn how to implement these strategies to get the VA benefits you deserve, click here to speak with a VA claim expert for free.

Denied VA claim? The good news is you have options, including requesting a VA higher level review.  

A higher-level review allows you the opportunity for a second viewing of your VA claim by a senior adjudicator.  

In this guide, we’re taking aim at the top 7 things to know about when requesting a higher-level review, ensuring you get closer to the benefits and compensation you deserve!  

Let’s get started! 

man sitting at desk performing a higher level review.

Defining a VA Higher Level Review

You navigated the VA claim process and are left with a denied claim. Now what??  

As of February 19, 2019, you have the option of having your first-time claim or a supplemental claim reviewed without filing an appeal with the Board of Appeals. 

You can request a VA higher-level review where a senior adjudicator determines if an error or difference of opinion changes the outcome of your claim.  

In addition, if the reviewer determines the VA didn’t help get the evidence you needed for the claim, they will close the review and open a new claim to collect the missing evidence.  

Next, the VA will notify you of the steps they will take to fix the error. Then, before deciding on your case, the VA will help you collect missing evidence.  

If the reviewer finds an error, it may result in a change in the initial decision of your claim. 


Take advantage of a FREE VA Claim Discovery Call with an experienced Team Member. Learn what you’ve been missing so you can FINALLY get the disability rating and compensation you’ve earned for your service.

Benefits of a Higher Level Review

There are several reasons why you may choose a higher-level review, including: 

  • A higher-level review is generally the fastest option when appealing a VA claim decision. 
  • Your case is reexamined by a senior reviewer.  
  • It’s a more straightforward process since it’s based on the information and evidence you’ve already submitted.  
  • You don’t think new evidence would strengthen your claim.  
  • You believe there was an error in your initial VA claim, causing a denial—or a lower rating.

You Have One Year to File Your Request

Remember to check the calendar when requesting a higher-level review. You must request a higher-level review within one year from the date of the most recent decision letter of the claim you’ll file an HLR for.

You also can’t request a higher-level review after a previous higher-level review or board appeal on the same claim or if you have a contested claim.  

You Can’t Submit New Medical Evidence

Don’t have new medical evidence to bring to the table? No problem!  

A higher-level review isn’t the time for you to hand over new evidence; it’s for a higher-level reviewer to examine your claim and determine if any mistakes were made.  

However, if you think new evidence could strengthen your claim, then don’t close the door on your case!!  

For example, if you have new evidence showing your condition has worsened, think twice about requesting a higher-level review.  

Instead, consider another appeal option, such as filing a supplemental claim or appealing to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.  

How to Request a Higher-Level Review

If you’re looking for the fastest way to request a VA higher-level review, you’ll want to jump online via and follow the prompts to request an HLR. Otherwise, fill out the VA Form 20-0996, which you can mail, fax, or use the Quicksubmit option on AccessVA to submit your request or visit a local VA regional office.  

After filling out your personal information, you will be asked to select a benefit type. You will pick “compensation” since you are asking for a review of a compensation claim.  

Then you will be asked to check a box to ask for an informal conference and give a two-hour window (you will be able to pick two options) that you would prefer to have the conference call. 

If you opt to mail the request, mail it to the benefit office that matches the benefit type you selected on the form.  

Benefit Type Mailing Address  
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  

For all other benefit types, you’ll need to check the decision letter of your initial claim on how to submit the form.  

If you don’t have access to a printer, call the VA at 800-827-1000 and request a form be mailed to you.  

VA Higher-Level Review Timeline

Curious what the process is like for a VA higher-level review. The timeline for higher-level review looks something like this: 

  1. A senior VA adjudicator will review your claim and consider your original evidence and potential errors.  
  1. You may have an informal conference with the high-level reviewer to discuss your case and identify potential errors. The reviewer will call the number on your higher-level VA form, and after two attempts at reaching you, they’ll review and decide your case without the information conference.  
  1. After about 4-5 months or an average of 125 days, you’ll be notified of the VA’s decision.  
  1. Do you disagree with the outcome? You can appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, request a Decision Review Officer hearing, or file a Notice of Disagreement.  

Did you get a VA higher-level review correcting errors message? This means the VA found an error they must correct before deciding on your case; they will contact you if they need more information.  

What to Expect After a Higher-Level Review

So, what’s next? Here are three potential scenarios to expect after your higher-level review: 

  1. A higher-level reviewer has a difference in opinion and can either grant the claim or send it back for more development. 
  1. A higher-level reviewer has identified an error that either grants your claim or sends it back for more development.  
  1. A CUE (Clear and Unmistakable Error) was identified, and the claim is sent back to address the CUE. 
  1. The higher-level reviewer agrees with the previous decision, and your appeal will be denied.  

Unfortunately, you can’t submit additional medical evidence at this point in the process.  

VA Higher Level Review, Good or Bad?  

Higher Level Review Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long does a VA high-level review take?

The average length of time for a VA high-level review is 125 days (4-5 months). However, it may take longer if you request an informal conference as part of your review.  

Can you withdraw from a VA high-level review?

Yes, you may withdraw from a VA higher-level review anytime before the VA makes a decision.  

Can you appeal a VA higher-level review decision?

If you don’t agree with the outcome of your higher level review, you can file a supplemental claim or appeal to the Veterans’ Board of Appeals. You can’t request a new higher-level review.  

What is a VA informal conference?

An informal conference is your chance to talk to the rater of your higher-level review about why you think the decision should be changed and identify any errors that you believe were made. 

In your conference call, you will have 15 minutes per issue to present your case on any errors that were made in the initial decision.  


Most veterans are underrated for their disabilities and, therefore, not getting their due compensation. At VA Claims Insider, we educate you on how to take control of the claims process so you may get the rating and compensation you’re owed by law. If you’ve filed your VA disability claim and have been denied or have received a low rating—or you’re unsure how to get started—reach out to us!  

Our process takes the guesswork out of filing a VA disability claim and supports you in building a fully developed claim (FDC)—so you may increase your rating FAST! Take advantage of a FREE VA Claim Discovery Call. Learn what you’ve been missing—so you can FINALLY get the disability rating and compensation YOU DESERVE! 

About the Author

Kelly Olone

Kelly Olone

Kelly Olone is a military spouse who earned her degree in Psychology from Florida International University. After working in the non-profit sector for several years, she turned to her passion for writing. She aims to contribute to a better understanding of the valuable benefits that veterans deserve. As a mom, Kelly navigates the delicate balance between deadlines and bedtime stories with finesse. 

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