Denied VA Disability Benefits

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Disability Benefits
According to the New York Times, a recent report shows a “sharp increase” in the number of veterans who’ve been denied VA disability benefits. If a veteran applies for veterans’ disability compensation and the Veterans Administration denies benefits, he or she has the legal right to an appeal direction to the regional office involved.

The veteran has a year from the date printed on the denial letter to file the VA appeal. The veteran must file the appeal with the Regional Office of the VA that denied veterans’ disability benefits. Fill out the Notice of Disagreement (NOD) or, if the Regional Office doesn’t have the NOD form, submit the Statement in Support of claim form from the VA website.

Information to Include on the NOD Form

It’s important for the denied veteran to say he or she disagrees with the VA on the Notice of Disagreement. The veteran doesn’t need to list all reasons he or she disagrees on the form and, for readability reasons, the veteran may benefit from listing general reasons for disagreement. It is possible to amend a specific issue to the appeal form later.

The veteran should include the following information on the NOD Form:

  • Explain that this is an appeal regarding denied VA disability benefits. Don’t cite specific VA decisions that are “wrong.” State the intention to appeal the VA decision, period.
  • Note the denial letter date and use large or bold letters to write “Notice of Disagreement” on the form.
  • If the veteran provides information about a particular disagreement in the denial of veterans’ benefits, it’s important to state that the disagreement isn’t necessarily limited to that issue.
  • State that the disagreement concerns all decisions in the ratings decision and denial letter.

Sent the Notice of Disagreement to the regional office referenced in the denial letter. Sign the copy with pen and ink (don’t create a digital signature). Make a copy of the NOD before posting the original. Send the NOD by certified mail, receipt requested, to prove the filing deadline was met.

Type of VA Appeal

Alternatively, the veteran may request a decision review officer, or DRO appeal with/without a hearing at the VA’s regional office. The veteran can also present the appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) as well.

If the appeal is present to BVA, the veteran must wait for VA to issue a “Statement of the Case.” This is a complete explanation of the VA decision to deny veterans’ benefits. In most cases, the veteran must wait weeks for the document to be generated by the VA.

The DRO appeal will get completed faster than the BVA appeal. If the DRO doesn’t reverse the decision to grant veterans’ benefits, it’s still possible to take the case to BVA at a later date.

Veterans Benefits Appeals Process

If the veteran requested a DRO appeal, the VA regional office writes to request information about what portions of the VA decision you want it to review:

  • If the veteran didn’t request a hearing, the DRO is likely to decide based on records relating to the claim.
  • If the veteran asked for a hearing, the VA schedules it after receipt of any requested information.

Board of Veterans Appeal (BVA)

If the veteran requested a BVA appeal, the regional VA prepares a Statement of the Case and mails it to the requestor. It can take weeks or months for the VA to send the Statement of the Case summary. A Statement of the Case document is also sent if an appeal is denied by the DRO.

The veteran has 60 days to file a BVA appeal after he or she receives the Statement of the Case document. Use VA Form 9 for the purpose of filing a BVA appeal.

Unfortunately, veterans report that VA Form 9 is much more challenging to prepare than the Notice of Disagreement. It may be wise to consult an experienced VA benefits attorney.

After the veteran files VA Form 9, he or she will probably wait three or four months for the VA regional office to complete the file transfer to BVA. The BVA sends a letter with appeal instructions at that time.