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VA Appeals Process: How Do I Appeal?
How do I file a VA appeal and what is the process?
Applying to Receive Benefits From the VA
If you are a Veteran who has a service-related disability, you can file a claim with the department of Veterans affairs (VA for short) and start receiving monthly tax-free benefits. If your disability makes it difficult for you to work and complete everyday tasks, you may be eligible for even higher benefits from the VA.
The VA will recognize you as a disabled Veteran if you have a condition, either physical or mental, that links directly to your service in the military. In some circumstances, you can still get a disability rating and receive benefits from the VA even if there is not a direct connection between your disability and your military service.
To file a claim with the VA and apply to receive benefits, you can mail in an application or drop one off at your local VA office.
How the VA Gives Benefits
Disability benefits from the VA are tax-free and come each month. Pay rates for disabilities change from year to year, as do the dates on which monthly payments will arrive. In addition, the number of dependents in your home can also impact your monthly benefits, with each dependent increasing your payment.
The VA rates each disabled Veteran who they conclude have a disability rating related to service on a scale of 0 to 100. With each 10% increase in the disability rating scale, monthly payments increase significantly. Even the difference between the payments for a 10% and 20% disability rating is big enough to make a major difference in your ability to support yourself and your family.
The Rating You Get Might Not Accurately Reflect Your Condition.
Because a higher disability rating directly corresponds to higher monthly payments, getting a rating that accurately reflects your disability is a must. The VA is not perfect, and they do not always give disabled Veterans a rating that will get them the benefits they deserve.
If you have a serious service-related disability or are suffering from a combination of multiple disabilities, you may be eligible to get your rating reevaluated by the VA. There are several ways to potentially change the VA’s decision, including if they denied you disability benefits. You can request a decision review, which involves either presenting further evidence to the VA or getting a senior official at the VA to examine your case. You can also make an appeal to the VA with the assistance of an attorney.
Why the VA Might Deny Your Claim
If you file a claim to receive disability benefits from the VA and your claim gets rejected, there are a few factors that may have influenced the VA’s decision.
One of the primary reasons that the VA might deny an application for disability benefits is if they see the medical evidence presented in the claim as insufficient. The VA is looking for black-and-white confirmation of a diagnosable disability and that there is a link between your condition and your service in the military.
If the VA rejects your claim on the grounds of insufficient medical evidence, you can get a second opinion from a non-VA-affiliated doctor. This is known as an independent medical exam (IME) and is often part of the decision review process. In a decision review, you can sometimes present medical evidence to support your claim along with your appeal. Sometimes, all the VA needs to change their decision is to review the evidence presented in an independent medical exam.
The VA sometimes rejects claims based on a lack of apparent connection between Veterans’ military service and their disability. Most of the time, your military medical records will provide sufficient evidence to the VA that your disability is service-related. If the VA does not conclude that there is enough evidence to confirm that your disability is service-related, you may be able to change their decision with a decision review that includes testimonials from fellow soldiers and other trusted friends. These testimonials are known as “buddy statements” and serve as eyewitness accounts from people who have seen the connection between your disability and your military service.
In some cases, the VA will grant a Veteran’s claim but only give them a 0% disability rating. A 0% rating is the minimum disability score that the VA will give. However, Veterans with a 0% rating do not receive monthly disability compensation for the condition. An appeal or decision review can help change the VA’s assessment of your claim and the rating they give you.
VA Appeals Start at the Regional Level.
If you feel that the VA has given you a lower rating than you deserve, or if you were denied benefits altogether, you can make an appeal and potentially change the VA’s decision. The appeals process can go through multiple levels, but it starts at your regional VA office. In your appeal, you can explain to the VA the issues you have with their decision, the disability rating you are hoping for, and what you think the VA got wrong in their assessment of your case.
When you want to appeal to the VA, you should understand the different appeal lanes available:
Higher-Level Review – Your claim will be reviewed by a higher-level adjudicator. However, you cannot submit additional evidence in this lane.
Supplemental Claim Lane – Your appeal will contain additional evidence that can help state your case.
Appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) – The board of Veterans appeals is broken down further. You can get a direct review without submitting additional evidence or attending a hearing; you can submit additional evidence without a hearing, or you can submit additional evidence and testify in front of a Veterans Law judge.
This point in the appeals process is the ideal time to team up with a VA-accredited attorney to help support you through the appeals process. A VA attorney can help you understand the different appeal lanes and which lane is best suited for your appeal.
Berry Law is made of Veterans seeking to help their fellow Veterans navigate the VA claims process to get the benefits they deserve. If you are suffering from a disability, we know how hard everyday life can be. The appeals process should not make things harder for you! Starting at the regional level, we can help you put together a strong case that points out the reasons why your disability is connected to your military service.
Appealing to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals
If the VA’s decision in an appeal on the regional level is still not the outcome you are looking for, you can appeal on an even higher level by going to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Making an appeal on this level does not necessarily mean you need to go to a hearing in Washington, D.C. Instead, you can have a virtual hearing with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, assisted by an experienced attorney.
Appeals can also go to higher courts if you still end up with an outcome that is not what you deserve at the regional or Board level. No matter what, it is usually in Veterans’ best interests to get an attorney to represent you during the appeals process and help you make as strong of a case as possible.
A Higher Disability Rating Can Make a Huge Difference in Your Life.
If the VA gives you a disability rating that is lower than you deserve, it can have devastating consequences. You may not be getting the support that you need to take care of yourself and your loved ones – and no one should end up in that situation. Appealing to the VA is the best move to make when you need to get your rating changed to accurately reflect the severity of your disability.
Even getting raised from a 20% rating to a 30% rating can make a major difference in your ability to support yourself and your loved ones. The differences between disability ratings can make it extremely important to get a rating that accurately reflects how severe your disability is, especially if your condition makes you unable to work.
The department of Veterans affairs is not your enemy. However, you may need to appeal their decision to get the financial support you deserve. The VA appeals process can seem overwhelming and complicated, but with the help of a dedicated attorney, you can get all the disability compensation you are entitled to. Working with an attorney from Berry Law means you’ll have someone on your team who understands both the struggles Veterans face and how the VA claims process works.
Our team of Veterans helping Veterans is committed to helping you get the outcome that you need from the VA, and we know what the VA is looking for to make a favorable ruling on your case. With our help, you’ll be well on your way to getting the benefits that you need and deserve.
Established in 1965 by Vietnam War veteran and attorney John Stevens Berry Sr., Berry Law Firm is a team of veterans dedicated to defending, safeguarding, and fighting to protect the rights of veterans. Over the decades, thousands of veterans from across the country and all branches of the military have trusted our firm with their cases and, more importantly, their futures.