How Do I Appeal My VA Benefits Claim Decision?
Applying for VA benefits is stressful enough, and when a claim is denied, some veterans begin to lose hope that they will ever receive the help they need. Given all of the bureaucratic red tape associated with filing benefits claims, it is easy to become frustrated and overwhelmed by a denial from the VA. Thankfully, there are ways for veterans to appeal decisions made by the VA about benefits.
By filing a Notice of Disagreement, or NOD, veterans can set the appeal process in motion. Include a statement that you disagree with the decision why. This will then place those issues on appeal. Speaking with an attorney may help veterans navigate the often-confusing process of appealing VA disability benefits claims.
Why Should I Appeal My VA Benefits Claim Decision?
There are many reasons why a person might opt to appeal a benefits decision made by the VA. One of the most common is to point out mistakes made during the claims process that affected the decision made on the claim. Some initial claims are denied because of clerical errors made either by the person filing for veterans benefits or by the VA itself. An appeal can help point out such mistakes and right such wrongs.
Others choose to appeal decisions made by the VA because they disagree with the percentage assigned or they were denied and have additional evidence to support their claim. During the claims process, more documentation and evidence of the severity of their condition or inability to work may come to light. Additional evidence can make the difference between a denial and an approval of a claim from the VA.
There are two main stages to the appeal process. Many request that a Decision Review Officer, or DRO, review their claim. A DRO can reverse a decision or uphold the VA’s initial decision. Veterans claims can also be sent directly to the Board of VA Appeals, or BVA. DRO reviews can reverse decisions much more quickly than a BVA review, but if the DRO upholds a denied claim, it will increase the wait time for the case to go to the a BVA for a decision by a Veterans Law Judge.
You must file an NOD form (21-0958) within one year of the date the date shown rating on the cover letter of the rating decision. Veterans who opt for DRO review and are denied benefits have 60 days from the date they receive their Statement of Case, or SOC, to file for a formal appeal. Similarly, veterans who received a decision from the Board and want to appeal have 120 days to file Notice of Appeal at the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
What to Expect at a Hearing
Veterans have the option to have a hearing before the DRO or judge. For those who request them, DRO hearings will occur after a “de novo” review of the claim has been completed. The DRO officer will work with the veteran and their attorney to resolve issues raised in the NOD. Informal hearings are also possible for DRO review.
BVA hearings may take place in person at a travel board hearing, in Washington, D.C., or via videoconference. In all forms of these hearings, the lawyer representing the veteran will have a chance to explain the needs of their client and show evidence of their disability. The judge may ask the veteran and their lawyer questions pertaining to the claim. The judge will then issue a decision.
When the appeals staff cannot find a reason to overturn a previous denial, they will uphold the decision. At this point, the veteran may take their appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, then the Federal Circuit Court and even petition to be heard at the Supreme Court. This process can take many years.
Compassionate Legal Help for Veterans
Veterans Law Group is committed to help wounded warriors receive the VA compensation they deserve. If you need assistance filing an appeal, fill out a consultation request form to see if Veterans Law Group can assist you with your benefits appeal.