What's involved in appealing a Veterans disability decision?
Filing a claim for veterans disability benefits can be a long and exhausting process. There are multiple steps along the way and the time it takes to get benefits ranges from months to years, depending on particular circumstances and the necessity of appeal.
We recommend retaining a veterans disability attorney before applying for benefits, as it will help increase your chances of getting a correct decision as early as possible. However, we work with many clients who come to us after they have received an unfavorable initial determination. Hope is not lost in the event of a denial; there are still options and methods of appealing the veterans disability decision. We will cover the basics today so that you understand what veterans disability application and adjudication process looks like.
The Claims Process
The Veterans Affairs website lists the 8 different steps that your claim goes through once received by their office. There are a host of considerations during this stage on which an experienced attorney can advise you. At the end of the process, the VA sends you a “decision packet,” which includes its determination regarding whether or not you are entitled to veterans disability benefits and, if so, the extent of benefits based on the degree of your disability.
Appeal #1 BVA
After receiving your decision packet, you must decide whether or not to appeal the decision. An appeal is a formal request to a higher authority to change the decision. The two main reasons individuals appeal are that: (1) they were denied veterans disability benefits completely; or (2) they disagree with the rating of their disability (in other words, they believe they are more disabled than the VA is giving them credit for). The first level of appeal is to the Board of Veterans Appeals (“BVA”), which is a body within the VA.
Upon deciding to appeal, you must notify the VA of this decision by sending a “Notice of Disagreement.” The VA responds to that notice with a “Statement of the Case,” which details the reasons and basis for their decision. You then have 60 days (deadlines are important!) to respond to the statement with your appeal using VA Form 9. The form will be included when the VA sends you their statement. If you would like a hearing before the board decides your case, you must request one.
After a hearing, if requested, or based on the filings, the BVA will issue their decision. If you continue to disagree, you can try to re-file your claim (i.e. start over) or appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC).
Appeal #2 CAVC
Unlike the BVA, the CAVC is an independent federal court and not a part of the VA system. An appeal at this level is much more formal than the internal VA claims and appeals process. There is a strict 120-day deadline for appealing to the CAVC after the BVA has mailed its unfavorable decision. Failure to meet this deadline means your case will not be heard, regardless of other circumstances. The CAVC will typically make a decision based off of the written briefs filed and the evidence from the VA proceedings. Occasionally, a hearing will be held.
Our Attorneys Will Help You Each Step of the Way
We hope that this blog has provided you with a better understanding of the veterans disability claims and appeals process. If you would like to discuss your current or prospective claim, contact the Rocky Mountain Disability Law Group today.