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What Is the Success Rate for VA Disability Appeals?

What Is the Success Rate for VA Disability Appeals?

America’s Veterans are entitled to VA disability benefits if they are injured during or as a result of their military service. Despite the overall success of this program, many Veterans go without the benefits they are entitled to. This is because the VA doesn’t provide a service connection for their disabilities or doesn’t rate those disabilities high enough for adequate compensation.

While you can appeal the VA’s decision, this involves a separate process that requires large amounts of paperwork and time. Additionally, there’s no guarantee that a VA disability benefits appeal will be successful. 

We are exploring the success rate for VA disability appeals and what you can do if your disability benefits claim is denied.

Revamped AMA Appeals Process

The VA no longer handles appeals claims for disability benefits like it did previously. The Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act or AMA is a new process that will hopefully lead to a faster decision for most Veterans’ disability benefits appeals for years to come.

As of February 2019, there are three lanes Veterans can choose from when filing their appeal. These are:

  • The Supplemental Claim Lane. Appellants add evidence to their benefits claim file when appealing through this lane. However, the added evidence has to be new and relevant to the file.
  • The Higher-Level Review Lane. When appealing through this lane, a senior claims adjudicator reviews a Veteran’s existing record. However, it does not allow for the addition of new evidence.
  • The Board of Veterans’ Appeals Lane. Appellants can directly appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals through this lane. This lane itself is broken down into three dockets.
    • With the direct review docket, a Veteran requests that the Board of Veterans’ Appeals review their claim without submitting new evidence or requesting a hearing.
    • With the evidence submission docket, the Veteran provides new evidence but doesn’t request a hearing.
    • With the hearing docket, the Veteran requests a hearing and has the option also to submit new evidence.

As you can see, the appeals process is far from straightforward. Knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys can help you navigate this process, including helping you choose the right lane for filing your appeal to maximize your odds of a favorable decision.

Still, most Veterans should receive faster average appeal decisions and initial disability benefits claim decisions thanks to the AMA. 

Recent Success Rate for VA Disability Appeals

According to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2021, that year saw a 32% acceptance rate for legacy disability appeals decisions. It also saw an acceptance rate of 38.1% for AMA disability appeals decisions.

This means disability appeals that go through the AMA process now have a higher likelihood of returning a favorable decision for the Veteran. This result is likely due to better organization by the VA, a faster claim decision process, and other factors.

That said, the appeals process can still take a long time. Legacy appeal claims filed before the AMA took hold took an average of 2015 days to receive a decision as of 2021. That’s several years from start to finish.

AMA appeals decisions were much faster on average. Here are the average times from filing an appeal for disability benefits and receiving a decision from the VA for each docket described above:

  • Direct review decisions – 300 days
  • Evidence decisions – 338 days
  • Hearing decisions – 547 days

Filing your disability appeal through the AMA system is much faster than in the previous system. Many Veterans may be able to receive their first disability benefits or higher benefits within a year.

Still, that’s a year or more to hear your disability benefits appeal results on average. During that time, you’ll either be stuck with the initial disability benefits rate assigned by the VA or unable to claim disability benefits until the Board decides.

This is another important reason to get the correct disability benefits rate and service connection for your disabilities the first time. Appealing can be useful, but getting the benefits you need and deserve immediately is much better.

Factors That Affect the Appeals Process

A wide variety of factors affects the VA appeals process, including:

  • The time you file your claim. For example, if the VA receives a large volume of appeals or benefits claims, it may take them longer to get to your file than otherwise. Unfortunately, there is no ideal season for filing your appeal or initial claim paperwork.
  • The amount of evidence you provide. Evidence can greatly help when seeking a favorable decision, but it can also slow down the decision-making process.
  • How far back your record goes. If you’re trying to get benefits for an injury or condition you suffered many years ago, it will take the VA longer to verify your claim, your service record, and the incident responsible for your injuries or conditions.

In addition, how you file your paperwork can impact the appeals process and whether you’ll experience a successful resolution. That’s another reason Veterans law attorneys are invaluable.

What If Your Appeal Is Denied?

If your appeal is initially denied, you can appeal the decision a second time. Thanks to the AMA, every Veteran has the right to appeal unfavorable VA decisions for one year after receiving the decision through the above three review lanes.

However, a second appeal will often take the same amount of time as your first appeal, if not more. It is in your best interest for your first appeal to be successful. The longer you spend appealing VA decisions, the more time you have to manage your finances with fewer or no disability benefits.

Typically, the VA does not deny benefits claims unless it has a good reason or can’t find sufficient evidence. Although many Veterans believe that they have ironclad evidence to receive benefits, this isn’t always the case.

Speak to a Veterans law attorney to determine whether you have a strong case for the VA and ensure you don’t waste your time on a benefits application that the VA is more likely to deny.

How Do Veterans Law Attorneys Improve Success Rates?

Veterans law attorneys can provide benefits to Veterans like you who need a successful appeal decision. Specifically, your lawyers can:

  • Help gather additional evidence, which can be helpful when filing a Supplemental Claim with the AMA process. The evidence has to be new and relevant, so you can’t simply resubmit evidence you submitted previously. Lawyers can help you determine which evidence is most likely to be compelling to the VA Board.
  • Counsel you regarding which of the lanes or dockets you should file your appeal through. For example, if new evidence won’t help your case very much, but another review from a more sympathetic adjudicator might, your lawyer might recommend that you use the higher-level review lane instead.
  • Help you file the correct paperwork on time and in the correct format. This may seem like a small factor, but it can seriously impact the success rate of your disability benefits appeal.

Above all else, Veterans law attorneys can walk you through the appeals process from start to finish and help you maximize your benefits. 

Contact Berry Law Today

It’s important never to give up if your initial VA disability benefits claim is denied or your benefits are rated at a level lower than what you believe is appropriate. There’s always a way to successfully appeal the VA’s decision, especially with knowledgeable legal representatives on your side.

Berry Law has worked with Veterans like you for many years, and we’ve helped many hard-working people successfully appeal an initial VA disability decision. We’ve helped Veterans get benefits they would not have received otherwise and helped Veterans receive higher disability ratings from the VA to provide them with compensation needed for medical bills and other expenses.

Want to maximize your chance of a successful VA disability appeal? Contact Berry Law today for a free case evaluation.

Sources:

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Board of Veterans’ Appeals Annual Report Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 | VA.gov

Appeals Modernization | Veterans Benefits Administration

Appeals Modernization Brochure | VA.gov

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law Firm 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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