Many veterans will have their initial claims for benefits denied, leaving them to wonder if they should appeal the decision, or file a new disability claim. Since there are many levels of appeal, it is important to know the difference between new and reopened VA disability claims.

The VA classifies claims in four ways—as an original claim, a reopened claim, a new claim or  a secondary claim.  Let’s explore each of these classifications.

An original claim is the very first claim that you file for VA benefit compensation. This can be filed by active service members, veterans, or surviving spouses of deceased military members. If this claim is denied, veterans have one year from the date of denial to appeal the decision.

If your benefit claim was denied and was not appealed before the time limit expired, your case can become a reopened claim, but you must have new evidence that could change the VA’s decision. In order to reopen your claim, you would send “new and material" evidence to the VA--such as medical tests or a doctor’s evaluation--and ask them to reconsider their decision.

A new claim is any claim that relies on new evidence. An original claim may be considered a new claim, but there are also new claims that can be made by veterans who are already receiving some form of aid through the VA. New claims may be filed to re-evaluate the percentage of a person’s disability, to apply for pensions or compensation for special circumstances, or if a service member is applying for individual unemployability.

And the last category is a secondary claim which is a claim involving a disability that has been caused or made worse by a condition connected to military service. The two conditions must be related in order for you to get compensation.

If you’re a veteran disabled due to a service-related incident or illness, we’re here to help you sort through the various kinds of claims. At Cuddigan Law, we provide veterans with the information they need to get maximum compensation for their disabilities. We can help you appeal your VA claim denial, and also examine whether other benefit sources such as Social Security Disability are available. Cuddigan Law has accredited VA lawyers and we’re here to fight for your rights.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska