If a veteran disagrees with the U.S. Veterans Affairs’ (VA) decision on his or her VA disability claim, he or she has the right to appeal the decision. However, the appeals process, outlined below, can be complicated, and it is often in your best interest to work with a lawyer who can guide you through the process.
Gordon & Doner is committed to pursuing the benefits that our heroes need and deserve. We offer a free consultation, so there is no risk in learning about your legal options. For more information on the appeals process, contact an experienced veterans' disability benefits lawyer in West Palm Beach.
When You Can Appeal
After applying for disability benefits, your local VA office will mail you a decision letter describing why the VA made the decision it did regarding your claim. You may appeal the decision if you disagree with any of the following aspects of the decision:
- Effective date of the award
- Disability rating percentage
- Service connection
You have one year from the date of the letter to file an appeal with the VA.
The VA Appeals Process
The VA appeals process is separated into two main stages: appeals to the local VA office and appeals that continue on to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in Washington, D.C.
Regional Office Appeals
Appeals are first reviewed at the regional office before they are submitted to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. To begin the appeals process, you will file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). Although you have one year from the date of the decision to file a NOD, you should file this document as soon as possible.
In the NOD, you can request one of the following types of reviews:
In a traditional review, a decision review officer will examines your claim file as-is to determine if it was processed correctly. After this review, the decision review officer prepares a written Statement of the Case that addresses the following matters:
- The applicable laws and regulations that supported the decision
- A summary of the evidence that was considered in making the decision
- An explanation of the reasons why the VA made the decision
De Novo Review
A de novo review is a new review in which the decision review officer gives a fresh look at the claim and evaluates all of the evidence in the file, including any new evidence you submit or request that the VA obtain to support your claim.
Like with a traditional review, the decision review officer will send you a Statement of the Case that explains the rationale for the decision and a summary of the claim.
If you submit additional evidence while your claim is pending, another de novo review will begin and the VA will send a Supplemental Statement of the Case. Each new review can add 400 days onto the time of the appeal, so it is best to submit all of the available evidence with your NOD.
Appeals at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals
If you are not satisfied with your Statement of the Case, you have one year from the date on your original decision or 60 days from the date of the Statement of the Case – whichever gives you more time – to file a VA Form 9 to file an appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
On this form, you will choose if you would like to have an optional in-person or video-conference hearing with a veterans law judge or if you would like a substantive appeal, in which your claim is forwarded to the Board for a review and a decision is mailed to you.
If you chose a hearing, the Board will issue a docket date for your claim when it receives your appeal. Cases are taken based on docket order, which is essentially a first-come, first-served basis. This option will add time to the appeals process as there is typically a backlog of several years for these claims. However, cases involving terminally-ill veterans, financial hardship and older veterans may be expedited.
Appeals at this level are often handled by a veterans’ disability benefits lawyer who will represent you throughout the process and will guide you through every step.
The Board has the power to decide whether to grant the appeal, deny it or sent the case back to be reconsidered at the regional level.
If the Board makes a decision you still do not agree with, there are several other appeal levels, including:
- Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
- United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
- United States Supreme Court
Get Help with Your VA Disability Appeal
If you disagree with the decision made on your VA disability benefits claim, you only have a limited amount of time to appeal. It is important that you have legal counsel to guide you through this complex process and help you avoid unnecessary delays in the processing of your appeal.
We offer a free, no-obligation review of your case. We also work on a contingency fee basis, so we only get paid if your claim is successful.