Have you gotten a VA decision that you disagree with? Any unfavorable adjudicative decision by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may be appealed to the agency with a supplemental claim or higher level review, to the Board of Veterans Appeals with a Notice of Disagreement, and if the denial continues, to the U.S. Court of Appeals far Veterans Claims (previously called the Court of Veterans Appeals). An adjudicative decision is one which establishes or denies eligibility to a VA benefit, such as service connection for a disability, eligibility for dental treatment, monthly rate of education assistance, waiver of overpayment, etc.
A claimant has one year from the date of the letter notifying him or her of the denial of a benefit to submit a Notice of Disagreement; otherwise, that decision becomes final. Generally, the VA is strict about appealing within that given one-year timeframe but “for good cause shown” the appeal period may be extended beyond one year under § CFR 38 3.109(b).
§ CFR 38 3.109(b) Extension of time limit: Time limits within which claimants or beneficiaries are required to act to perfect a claim or challenge an adverse VA decision may be extended for good cause show n. Where an extension is requested after expiration of a time limit, the action required of the claimant or beneficiary must be taken concurrent with or prior to the filing of a request for extension of the time limit, and good cause must be shown as to why the required action could not have been taken during the original time period and could not have been taken sooner than it was. Denials of time limit extensions are separately appealable issues.
The VA does not define what “good cause” is. The VA also does not place a time limit on how long after the appeal has expired that one can request an extension. The only requirement is that you must file your appeal itself with the extension request. For example, if you are asking for an appeal extension for a supplemental claim then you must include the supplemental claim form with your request for an extension.
If, somehow, you have missed the one year appeal period and have extenuating circumstances then write the VA as soon as you realize it, explain the situation and request an extension of the 1 year appeal period.
This type of thing was even accounted for with the new appeals modernization process. Concern was expressed regarding lane changes after the one-year period described above, but before a decision review request has been adjudicated. VA understood the concern regarding withdrawing from one lane in favor of another, particularly if the one-year period has expired. Accordingly, VA will consider requests to extend the one-year period for claimants in one review lane to switch to the supplemental claim lane through the above-described procedure without loss of the current effective date. Such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis for good cause shown under § 3.109(b). Section 3.109(b) generally allows for requests to extend time limits within which claimants are required to act based on good cause, and allows such requests to be made after the relevant time period has expired subject to specified procedural requirements.
The only lane into which a claimant may switch after the one-year period has expired is the supplemental claim lane based on new and relevant evidence, regardless of whether a good cause exception is allowed for purposes of maintaining the continuous pursuit of the claim.
By all means, please try to get your claim in within the given one-year time limit but if you somehow miss that timeframe then immediately request an extension.