Appeals: informal conference provides clarity and feedback in higher level decision reviews

Veterans seeking an Upper Level Review (HLR) of a benefit claim decision have a powerful tool to communicate directly with an Upper Level Reviewer. This is called an informal conference.

The HLR is part of the Veterans Appeals Modernization Act, 2017 (AMA). As part of the HLR process, VBA provides a one-time optional informal conference.

How it works

An informal conference is an opportunity for a Veteran or their representative to speak directly with a higher-level reviewer responsible for completing the review of the decision. Veterans or their representative can point out errors of fact or law in their previous decision based on the record at the time the decision was made, but they cannot present new evidence. VA will listen and render a decision to cancel, hold or refer the issues for additional information based on all information discussed at the conference.

“The informal conferences give veterans a chance to be heard and present any errors of fact or law that they believe may have affected their prior decision to a higher-level reviewer,” said Timothy Sirhal, Acting Executive Director of the VBA Administrative Review Office. . “We want every encounter with VA to be a great customer experience.”

How to register

Registering for an informal HLR conference is easy. Complete Form AV 20-0996, Request for Decision Review: Upper Level Review, online, and choose the informal conference option. VA must receive the informal conference request at the time it receives the HLR request.

WADA has modernized the appeals process to make it easier to resolve claims sooner by providing three review options for disagreements with claim decisions. The three examination options under the AMA consist of:

  • A new review of the decision by an experienced arbitrator who was not involved in the previous decision, without presenting new evidence. This review provides the opportunity to overturn the decision on the basis of a difference of opinion or to identify a shortcoming in the VA’s fulfillment of its duty to assist in obtaining evidence relevant to the decision making the decision. subject of the review.
  • Additional request. New and relevant evidence may be submitted to support your claim, and VA will help you develop the evidence.
  • Appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

To learn more about the informal conference process, please see the VAs Information sheet on the informal conference. You can learn more about the decision review process here or read the AMA here.

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