Austin Veterans' Disability Appeals
Has your claim for veterans’ disability benefits been denied? Have you received a disability rating that is too low? Don’t give up. You may be entitled to recover the benefits you deserve through the appeals process.
There are two main situations in which veterans may appeal a decision about their benefits. These situations include:
- When the Veterans Administration (VA) has outright denied a disability claim. The VA may deny a claim for many reasons, including insufficient proof that the disability was sustained while on active duty or insufficient proof that the disabling condition exists.
- When the VA has given a claimant a low disability rating. Disabilities are rated based on their severity and the level of impairment they cause. These ratings are used to determine how much compensation a disabled veteran should receive. This means that when a veteran receives a rating that doesn’t reflect the reality of his or her condition, the veteran may not receive the full measure of the benefits he or she is entitled to.
To file an appeal in either of these situations, there are several steps that must be taken, including paperwork that must be completed. There are also strict deadlines that must be met to preserve the right to appeal.
It is helpful to have an attorney representing you to ensure the appeals process goes smoothly. You should contact a veterans’ disability benefits lawyer as soon as you receive a denial or a disability rating that is too low.
The VA Appeals Process
When you are not happy with the VA’s decision, there is a three-stage appeals process that you can pursue. The process includes:
- Filing a Notice of Disagreement with your local VA and having your claim reviewed by your local VA office
- Appealing to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals
- Appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims
These stages of appeals can take a very long time. Unfortunately, there are long backlogs in light of the high number of denials and appeals. The Government Accountability Office now says that it can take as long as 25 months to work through the appeals process.
A veterans’ disability benefits lawyer can help you through the appeals process as quickly as possible. An attorney can also help you to make a solid case to improve the odds of resolving your claim early in the process.
First Stage: Review by the Local VA Office
The first stage of appeals involves asking your local VA office to take another look at your application. You must request this appeal by filing a Notice of Disagreement within one year of the date when you are first informed of the decision that was made on your case.
When the VA sends you information on your claim, they will include a Statement of Case outlining the regulations, evidence and laws that they used to make a decision on your application. The VA will also include an appeal form when they send you the information about your case. This is referred to as VA Form 9.
Once you have filed a Notice of Disagreement, a decision review officer at your local VA office will review your file and your case. When you complete VA Form 9 and file your Notice of Disagreement, you’ll also have to specify whether you wish to have a personal hearing.
A personal hearing is an informal hearing conducted by the decision review officer who will decide your claim. The hearing gives you a chance to speak up for yourself and to connect with the person who is making a decision on your claim. Often, it is best to request a hearing, but this will depend on your circumstances and the Statement of Case.
A veterans’ disability benefits lawyer can help determine if a personal hearing should be requested and can assist you in preparing for the hearing and presenting your information to the decision review officer.
Second Stage: Appealing to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals
Once your initial claim has been reviewed by the local VA office a second time as part of the appeals process, you will receive a new decision on your case. If you are still not satisfied with the outcome, then the next step is to appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA).
The job of the BVA is to review the decisions made by the local VA office. When you request review, you again have the opportunity to assert whether you want a hearing.
The difference at this stage is that you have a choice of three possible hearing formats. These options include:
- A hearing in the Washington, D.C., area where the BVA is located. This is typically the least desirable option, since attending a hearing in Washington would require a long trip.
- A video conference. The video conference will take place while you are at your local VA office. The Board members will be in Washington. You will be able to communicate with the Board by going to your local VA office and having a video conference call. This is the quickest method of getting a hearing on your case.
- A hearing at your local VA office. If you choose this option, then a board member will come to your local office.
No matter which of these options you choose, the hearing is relatively informal and fairly short. Board members, in fact, hear as many as 10 cases each day.
However, you will need to present evidence to support your position on why you should receive benefits or a more severe disability rating.
It is very helpful to have an attorney represent you at this hearing. An attorney can ask you questions and guide you through the presentation of your evidence. If you are not represented by a veterans’ disability lawyer, then you will simply have to tell the board member your information. The board member may ask questions, but it is not the board member’s job to help you make a good case.
The BVA does not make a decision immediately on your case. Instead the information you presented and a transcript of the hearing are reviewed by the board member after the hearing. The BVA can allow your claim, deny your claim or send the case back to the local office in order to get more details.
After you are notified by the BVA of their decision, then you have two options:
- File a motion for the board to reconsider your case. This is effective only if there was a clear error.
- File a claim with the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veteran’s Claims. This is the last step in the appeals process.
Need Help with a VA Appeal? Talk to Our Veterans’ Disability Lawyers
At the Bob Richardson Law Firm, our Texas veteran’s disability benefits attorneys have extensive experience representing veterans. We can put our knowledge of VA disability cases to work for you in order to help you get all of the benefits you deserve.
To learn more about how we can help, call us or use our online contact form to schedule a free, confidential claim review.