After serving your country selflessly and completing your military service, you were left with a life-altering injury or condition. You completed an application for veterans’ disability compensation for your service-related injury, but you just received a denial or lower rating than expected. This can be incredibly disappointing, but it does not mean that you should give up! You can appeal the decision and continue to fight for the benefits that you deserve.
Reasons for Filing an Appeal
A denial or unfavourably low rating can seem like the end of the road, but there are many reasons that your claim could have been denied or under rated: missing information or evidence; incomplete forms; or the claim examiner may have missed something important. Do not take the VA’s decision as personal. Instead, read through the letter carefully and take note of the following:
- Date: The date of the decision is very important! You have 12 months from the date on the letter to submit an appeal.
- Reason for Denial: This part of the decision can help you determine the reason that the VA denied your claim. Often, the VA just puts standard language in this section, but there may be details about information that should have been included or evidence that was missing.
- Effective Date and Rating: The date your benefits go into effect and the rating of your injury will determine the amount of benefits you receive. Take some time to review this information to make sure that it aligns with the date and severity of your impairments.
If you disagree with the VA’s decision or you believe that the effective date or the rating of your impairments is incorrect, you can appeal the decision. If you become overwhelmed as you are reading through the paperwork, or you are confused by the VA’s decision, make sure to contact your representative (i.e. veterans service officer (VSO) or an attorney); they will be happy to review the decision with you. Your representataive can also help you determine if an appeal is appropriate and assist you with filing a Notice of Disagreement.
How Do You File a Notice of Disagreement?
If you have decided to appeal the VA’s decision, you will need to complete a Notice of Disagreement (VA Form 21-0958). The Notice of Disagreement does not need to be a detailed list of all of the errors made in the decision. Use the form and answer the questions they ask as to why you disagree. You will also need to indicate if you would like a Decision Review Officer (DRO) appeal or a Traditional Review.
What is the Difference Between a Decision Review Officer and a Traditional Review?
The VA gives you the option of choosing a DRO appeal or a Traditional Review. The DRO option is generally a quicker process than the Traditional Appeal. Your VSO can help you determine which is the best option for you.
If you choose the DRO appeal the DRO will perform new review of your claim and supporting evidence and issue an independent decision. If requested by you, a hearing will be held prior to a decision. After review of all the evidence and information, the DRO will issue a Rating Decision on any benefits changed from the appealed decision and a Statement of the Case on any benefits in which the DRO agreed with the previous decision.
You again have the option to appeal the Rating Decision with a Notice of Disagreement. If you disagree with any portion of the Statement of the Case, you have the option to file a substantive appeal by completing VA Form 9. This will then send your appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) in Washington D.C.
Additionally, the VA allows the submission of new or relevant evidence during the appeal with a DRO and BVA, so you may submit new medical records or other supporting information. If you find the Notice of Disagreement or VA Form 9 difficult to complete, so feel free to ask your representative for assistance with this portion of the appeals process.
If you determine that it may be useful, at this appeal level you may also request a formal hearing in front of the BVA to explain your case. Once the BVA has reviewed all the information, a decision will be issued.
The VA disability benefits claims process can be lengthy, overwhelming, and frustrating, but finding answers to your disability claims questions doesn’t have to be difficult. Take our free quiz today to determine what resources are available for your specific needs.