Reopened Claims

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Final Denial

Once the VA has denied a claim and the matter has reached finality, this is known as a “final denial.”  Final denial occurs where the denial of benefits was unsuccessfully appealed to the highest authority possible, or where the veteran’s time to appeal the decision to the next level has expired without the filing of an appeal.  A final denial is not always the end of a veteran’s attempt to get benefits since in some circumstances they can reopen the claim.

 New and Material Evidence

In order to reopen a claim which has reached final denial, the veteran must show that there is new and material evidence.  Clearly “new” means evidence which was not in the record before the VA when the final denial was made.  “Material” means that the evidence is relevant and relates to an unestablished fact necessary to substantiate the claim, and has a legitimate influence or bearing on the decision in the case.

New and material evidence must address one of the reasons for denial given by the VA in the final denial.  This means that submitting new evidence in and of itself won’t always qualify the claim for reopening – the evidence must address a reason given by the VA for denial.

Once the VA decides that a veteran has submitted new and material evidence, the finally denied claim is reopened for another evaluation.  The VA must then consider the new evidence along with all prior evidence in the record before it, as if it were deciding the claim for the first time.  This type of review is known as a “de novo” review – the VA cannot give any weight to the fact that the claim was previously denied, and must evaluate the entire record before it anew.

Claims for increased disability ratings, non-service connected pension benefits, or TDIU are always considered new claims, even if they have been previously requested by the veteran.  For these types of claims, if a veteran alleges that a fact related to the benefits has changed since the VA last finally denied the claim, it is counted as a new claim.

Our SC Veterans’ Advocates team is made up of attorneys who have served themselves, and so understand the unique pressures and possible injuries sustained during your time in the military. If you are looking for more information on filling or reopening a Veteran claim, Bluestein Attorneys is here to help. Reach us by phone at (803) 779-7599 or contact us online to request your FREE consultation today.


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