If you’ve applied for disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and you did not qualify for the level of benefits you need or your claim was denied, you have a right to appeal the VA’s decision.
Here’s a word of advice: don’t try to handle your appeal alone. Get help. Before you begin the appeals process for a VA disability denial, it would be a good idea to speak with an attorney who has extensive experience helping veterans in your situation. Veterans who are represented by attorneys are more likely to be successful with their appeals than those who do not, according to the 2011 Board of Veterans’ Appeals Annual Chairman’s Report.
A Veterans disability lawyer will review your claim, determine if the VA made any errors, correct any mistakes, gather the evidence needed to support your claim and act on your behalf at the appeals hearing if one occurs.
File a Notice of Disagreement
The appeals process for a VA disability denial begins by submitting a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) VA Form 21-0958 to the VA Regional Office, informing them that you disagree with their decision and intend to appeal. You have one year from the date of the decision letter to submit your NOD.
If you fail to submit your NOD before the deadline, the VA’s decision will become final. Once their decision is final, you cannot get the VA benefits you were denied unless you are able to:
- Prove the VA made a clear and unmistakable error in the previous denial
- Submit new and material evidence that support a change in the previous decision
When appealing your claim, you have 2 options in how to proceed:
1. Decision Review Officer (DRO)
A Decision Review Officer is a Senior VA Rater who works for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). A DRO Review can be conducted with or without a hearing. A DRO appeal is usually completed more quickly than a BVA appeal and can often be completed at any local VA office. If the DRO doesn’t grant you benefits, you still have the option to take your case to the Board of Veterans Appeals.
Once the elected review is complete and determined there was no change in the previous decision, the Regional Office will issue a Statement of the Case (SOC). The SOC will list all evidence considered, applicable laws and regulations, the determination and reason for each decision.
2. VA Form 9 Appeal
You can also elect to file a VA Form 9 Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). You have 60 days from the date of the SOC to file this claim, which will allow the veteran to waive or elect an optional BVA Hearing. Once the VA Form 9 is received by the Regional Office, the file is reviewed once more and sent to the Board if no additional information is needed.
If you choose to have a hearing, you have the option of attending the hearing at a local VA Office by Live Video-conference, in Washington, D.C., or at a local VA office with the BVA Travel Board.
The Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) is a part of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), located in Washington, D.C. The Board’s mission is to conduct hearings and decide appeals properly before the Board in a timely manner. The members of this board are known as Veterans Law Judges.
Hearings are optional and add significant delays in the issuance of a decision. You must testify under oath, offer testimony as to why you believe you deserve the benefits you are seeking, and submit additional evidence to support your claim. After a hearing, the file is sent to the BVA to be placed on their docket for a full review and decision by a Veterans Law Judge. The VLJ will review the entire file and hearing before issuing a decision.
After reviewing and considering the evidence in your appeal case, the Veterans Law Judge will make a decision to grant, remand or deny each issue in your claim.
- Granted: Your appeal was a success and you will receive your benefits.
- Remand: A remand means that there are issues with your appeal and it is sent back to the local VA office for further evidence collection or other procedural reasons. Your appeal will be resubmitted to the BVA when the local VA office complies with their instructions.
- Denial: If your claim is denied, you can: file a new claim, file a motion asking the BVA to review your appeal because of a clear error in its decision, file a notice of appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. You have 120 days from the stamped date of the decision to submit a Notice of Appeal.
Speak With a Veterans Claim Lawyer
The Law Offices of M. Stanley Whitehead has many years of experience guiding disabled veterans through the appeals process for service-connected VA disability denials. We’ve successfully represented Veterans at all levels within the VA disability system including claims before the VA Regional Office, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
If you are an injured veteran and have been denied a claim, call M. Stanley Whitehead today at (713) 993-7311 or contact us online to speak with one of our highly qualified and experienced Veterans Claim Attorneys.