When the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) denies your disability benefits or assigns you a lower disability rating than you believe you have, you may choose to appeal the disability rating. The right to appeal is preserved through the filing of a Notice of Disagreement (NOD).
Veterans have only a limited amount of time to appeal disability ratings. Successfully appealing a rating will usually require identifying and proving errors in the VA’s decision. If you do not submit an appeal in time, then you must submit a new claim and essentially move to the back of the line.
If you need assistance appealing a VA disability rating, you need to get help from a qualified attorney as quickly as possible.
The first thing you have to know about a VA disability rating appeal is that you only have one year to take this action. A Notice of Disagreement is filed on VA Form 21-0958.
When it comes to proving a service-connected disability, the standard of proof is “as likely as not,” which is much less than the “preponderance of the evidence” required in most civil cases and the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal cases.
Statistics show that around 35% of appeals receive approval at the Board of Veterans Appeals. Unfortunately that leaves nearly two thirds that are returned or rejected for a variety of reasons.
One way to increase your chances of a successful appeal is by hiring an appeal VA disability lawyer. Your VA attorney goes over your file and ensures that all relevant details from your military service, your medical history, and current medical science are included to increases the chances of successful appeal, full disability compensation, and an improved rating.
One of the most challenging parts of a VA disability appeal is the time it takes for a decision. On average, an appeal takes about one year from the date you file to receive an answer. In some cases, the complete process can take years, particularly when going through multiple rounds of appeals for multiple injuries.
If the review reaches the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, it is common for a case to last up to five years. Although these numbers may be disheartening for many Veterans, it helps to talk to an attorney to understand your options if you make the decision to refile the claim.
Due to the the nature of military service, many Veterans have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. The disruptive nature of this disorder and its adverse effect on Veterans’ lives entitles them to apply for disability compensation. Even if you have a strong case, you may receive a rejection for your initial PTSD claim.
If you are a veteran who has PTSD and the Regional Office or Board rejects your PTSD claim, you can file for an appeal. You can use the VA Form 21-0958 – Notice of Disagreement if disagreeing with the Regional Office. The PDF file is available for download through the VA.gov website. If you need help filling out the form or have questions about the PTSD appeals process, contact the attorneys at Berry Law for assistance.
The Department of Veterans Affairs launched the MyVA portal to provide disability benefits information. MyVA was designed to make it easier to coordinate between veterans and service providers, as well as search for relevant information. Available through the VA.gov website, the MyVA portal was built to enhance the disability claims process.
The MyVA portal has been replaced by the VA’s eBenefits website for Veterans to track and manage their claims and benefits. The website provides basic information regarding the process of filing a VA claim, and the status of claims in the process.
Your disability rating is the key factor in determining how much compensation you receive, and can determine your priority for care. The higher your rating, the more compensation you receive, but many Veterans simply take their initial rating because of horror stories from friends of long appeals processes. Although you may at first worry that it’s not worth fighting to increase your rating, we have never had a client regret fighting for a more accurate rating.
The rating system was designed to get Veterans the help they need promptly and accurately. However, the system allows human error throughout, both at the VA and with other medical records or service records. Your initial rating may not even be considered right by the first person who sees it, but a missing form or misfiled piece of evidence can be holding them back. A quick review might entitle you to more money every month, and if you followed deadlines you should be entitled to receive backpay for the difference caused by their initial rating.
There are dozens of more complicated reasons a claim might be denied but can be appealed for an increase. Fighting this battle can net you significantly more compensation, an you don’t have to fight it alone. The attorneys at Berry Law have helped over 5,000 Veterans with their appeals, and many of the Veterans on our staff have had to fight for their own disability ratings.
If you are looking to hire a professional to help appeal your VA disability rating, you may be overwhelmed by the options. There are hundreds of organizations and law firms that will offer to help you, and the choice can be overwhelming. The partner you choose will need to stand by you for months, years, or even a decade.
Berry Law uniquely combines decades of VA law, a team full of Veterans, and centuries of combined attorney experience. Many law firms only began accepting Veterans appeals after 2007 when a change in the law allowed them to get more money. These are often Social Security lawyers who saw it as an extension of their practice, rather than a situation unique to Veterans.
Many of the other law firms don’t have any Veterans on their team, or have a token representative. Berry Law was founded by a Vietnam Veteran, is managed by an Iraq Veteran, and has a staff that is over 30% Veteran, including Veterans from both the enlisted and officer sides of all four branches. Whether you were an O or an E; in the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps; Vietnam, Cold War, OIF, OND, or OEF, there is someone on our team with a shared experience.
We recognize the valuable contributions of VSOs and other non-profit Veteran organizations in helping with VA claims, but if your case may eventually need a lawyer, you are likely to want an experienced attorney fighting for you.
We charge no up-front fees and offer a free phone consult to determine if we are a fit for your case. We also only accept payment if we help you win a backpay award as part of a higher rating.
When you are appealing a VA decision, you should never simply submit the same evidence and hope for a better outcome the second time around. It will be imperative for you to dramatically improve the quality of the evidence you submit and also draw clear distinctions in how the evidence supports your claim.
Our lawyers can help you obtain many kinds of new evidence, including medical expert testimony and “buddy statements” from other veterans you served with. Your appeal should also be sure to include all possible secondary service-connected conditions.
Many appeals are based on VA errors. One possible error involves the VA failing to send a veteran notification of required evidence, as veterans who did not receive these notices can claim this failure damaged their claim.
There could also be issues with medical examinations, such as the VA failing to provide one. In other cases, the examination may have been inadequate or inaccurate.
Do you need help appealing a VA disability rating? Contact Berry Law as soon as possible to get qualified legal help from attorneys who have committed their legal careers to helping veterans seek the benefits they deserve.
John S. Berry Sr. is a Vietnam War veteran and Bronze Star recipient, while John S. Berry Jr. served as a company commander in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom and as a platoon leader in Operation Joint Forge in Bosnia.
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