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Prep for Decision on Your VA Claim: What You Should Know

Prep for Decision on Your VA Claim: What You Should Know

For every VA disability benefits claim, the Department of Veterans Affairs uses a multistep process to receive, analyze, decide, and notify the claimants of those claims. One of the most important steps is the prep for decision phase, which helps to accelerate the overall disability claim timeline.

Please note that every claim is different and timelines vary based on a variety of factors. The timelines presented here are an example and your claim may take more or less time to complete.

Read on for more information about this phase and how to maximize your chances of filing a successful claim.

What Is Preparation for Decision?

Preparation for decision or prep for decision refers to a distinct phase in the VA disability claims process (specifically, Phase 5). It’s an important step that involves sending your completed VA disability claim file, including any substantiating evidence like medical documentation, to a Ratings Veteran Service Representative (RSVR).

The RSVR then reviews your application and supporting evidence and begins prepping the necessary documents to break down and explain the decision the VA makes regarding your claim.

The Major Steps of the VA Claims Process

To better understand what preparation for decision entails, let’s take a detailed look at the other major steps of the VA claims process:

  • Phase 1 – Claim Receipt. The VA receives your claim and sends you a message. If you file your claim online, this will happen immediately. If you file by mail, you’ll receive a receipt notification within 14 business days.
  • Phase 2 – Initial Review. A Veterans Service Representative (VSR) reviews your claim and typically determines that it needs more evidence before making a decision.
  • Phase 3 – Evidence Gathering. The VA requests and gathers evidence from you, healthcare providers, or government agencies. It may also schedule a Compensation and Pension (C&P) Exam. At the end of this phase, your claim is moved to a Ratings Veteran Service Representative (RVSR).
  • Phase 4 – Evidence Review. Your VSR reviews all the information about your claim. If the VSR thinks your claim needs more information, it will bump it back down to Phase 3 and request that information from you or your attorneys.
  • Phase 5 – Preparation for Decision. Here, your RVSR reviews your application and substantiates evidence. The RVSR prepares documents to explain why they came to their decision.
  • Phase 6 – Pending Decision Approval. The RVSR’s recommendations are reviewed further. Your claim receives a final award decision or determination.
  • Phase 7 – Preparation for Notification. A Senior Veterans Service Representative (SVSR) reviews all the completed documentation and, if you receive a payment, authorizes the release of that payment and your award letter.
  • Phase 8 – Claim Completion. During this phase, the VA mail your disability claim decision packet to you. Your claim is officially closed.

What Does the Prep for Decision Phase Mean?

In essence, you can think about the prep for decision phase as the stage at which the VA collects and sends your disability claim file to the primary officer in charge of making a decision, the RVSR. This agent reviews your application in its entirety, including:

  • The initial claim you make, including why you believe you deserve VA disability benefits
  • Any supplementary information you’ve included, like lay statements, medical reports, and so on
  • Ancillary information provided by the VA, such as C&P Exam reports and much more

After reviewing your information, the VA can decide whether you will receive the benefits you applied for (or at the level you applied for them). If you included plenty of information substantiating your claim, this process would be quicker, and the VA may be more likely to make a favorable decision.

How Long Does the Prep for Decision Phase Take?

The decision phase prep usually takes seven to 14 business days. Note that a business day is any standard weekday that isn’t a federal holiday. 

For example, if the RVSR receives your claim on a Monday and there are no federal holidays, the earliest they will likely be finished is the following Wednesday.

You can accelerate this process by providing the VA with your benefits claim information neatly, accurately, and without errors. Knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys can ensure that you file your disability benefits claim in a way that maximizes the speed at which it proceeds through the system.

What Do You Need To Do During the Prep for Decision Phase?

At this stage, everything is out of your hands. The VA should only ask you for additional supplementary information and medical or service records. If the VA needs more information after your claim gets to this step, it will only require it during the appeals process.

Ultimately, it’s a good sign that your claim is at the prep for decision phase. If your claim has made it this far, it’s unlikely to get stuck before the VA makes a decision (unless it has a lot of other claims to work through, which can happen).

In contrast, it’s much more likely for Veteran disability benefits claims to get stuck at earlier steps of the process. That’s because the VA may continually request more information or file corrections if you file your initial benefits claim improperly or with one or more errors. You can check the status of your claim on the official VA website.

What Happens If Your Claim Gets Stuck in This Phase?

From time to time, VA disability benefits claims can get stuck in the prep for decision phase. When this happens, it’s usually because the RVSR needs more information, even though your claim should be ready for a final decision. 

This isn’t always a bad omen; in some cases, the RVSR wants to ensure that it gives you an accurate, fair decision regarding your disability benefits.

If your claim gets stuck, be prepared for the following:

  • The VA to request more information from you. This could result in your claim being kicked back down a few steps in the process, though it should quickly return to its original phase once you provide extra information
  • Your claim to stick around for a couple of extra weeks

What About Case Backlogs?

In addition, the VA can be affected by case backlog in some months. If hundreds of thousands of new Veterans file extra disability benefits claims simultaneously as you, don’t be surprised if the above phase timeline gets extended to some extent.

For instance, if the VA releases a new rule about some type of benefit or rating system, many Veterans may apply for either appeals (to get a new decision or to increase their disability ratings) or disability benefits for the first time. All of that extra paperwork can slow down the bureaucratic organization of the VA. In this situation, your claim isn’t stuck. All the other cases are just slowing it down the VA has to handle.

Contact knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys if you need clarification about why your claim is stuck. The right law firm can answer your questions and quell your concerns. Furthermore, they may be able to reach out to the VA or do some research to figure out why your case is stuck in this phase.

If more information is required, your law firm can help you gather it and prepare it for a future appeal or your current disability benefits claim. 

Contact Berry Law Today

In the preparation for decision phase, your VA disability benefits claim file is sent to the RSVR. The RSVR then reviews your claim application and any supporting documents or medical records before recommending a decision and passing your claim down to the next step of the process. Within one to two weeks, this phase will be complete.

If your claim is stuck or you still have questions about what prep for decision means for your VA claim, Berry Law can help. Our knowledgeable lawyers have helped hundreds of Veterans just like you understand the ins and outs of the VA benefits claim system. We can certainly answer any other questions, so contact us today.

Sources:

What’s happening to my claim?: Claims Process: Veterans Services Offices | Maine 

How To File A VA Disability Claim | Veterans Affairs

What Your Claim Status Means | Veterans Affairs

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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