In recent years, a “Request for VA Reconsideration” has become a hot button issue at the VA. The VA has begun to recommend that veterans who receive a claim denial on their initial claims submit a request for reconsideration. It sounds reasonable enough, so veterans do it. There are three problems with this: 1) there is no such thing as a request for reconsideration, 2) reconsideration never yields a different decision, and 3) the time spent waiting for reconsideration does not suspend the one-year time limit the veteran has to appeal.
Defining a Request for VA Reconsideration
When I say, “There is no such thing as a request for reconsideration,” I mean that the request for reconsideration does not appear in any law or regulation. It is not an official path for appeal. The importance of this cannot be overstressed. Reconsideration is not an official path for appealing your claims. This means you have no procedural guidelines and no higher authority to take the claim to when the reconsideration comes back negative. At best, you will wind up back at square one preparing an appeal the exact same way you would have before the reconsideration. At worst, you’ll be re-filing your claim because the time for appeal lapsed, as discussed below.
Why does the VA pretend to have a quasi-appeals process at all? While this answer can only be provided through speculation, it seems the goal is keeping claims out of the official appeals process. As a result of recent media attention, the claims process at the VA has been cleared out so that it takes mere months to get a decision back on new claims. In sharp contrast, the appeals process is more backed up than ever. In asking for reconsideration, it seems that the VA is trying to keep claims at the lower level and refrain from adding to the appeals backlog.
VA Reconsideration Never Works
Imagine this scenario:
You experience chronic neck pain as a result of a car accident. When you see a doctor, he diagnoses you with a sprained ankle, ignoring your neck entirely. You leave the office confused and frustrated. But instead of going elsewhere for a second opinion, you turn around and walk right back in to the same office to see the same doctor. Will you be surprised when he provides another inaccurate diagnosis? Asking the VA for reconsideration is no different.
When you take your claim into the appeals process by filing a Notice of Disagreement are effectively moving away from the quack doctor and going to see a specialist (the Board of Veterans’ Appeals). Sure, it might take longer to get an appointment for the specialist, but he won’t misdiagnose a neck problem as a sprained ankle.
After receiving a Rating Decision, you only have one year to submit a Notice of Disagreement to appeal your claims. That might sound like a lot of time, but it tends to slip away quickly. Requesting reconsideration eats away at that time, and does not reset the one-year time limit. For this reason, a cynical person might say that “reconsideration” is the VA’s way of making sure appeals never get filed at all. The claimant, unaware that the reconsideration is eating away at their time for appeal, might miss the deadline for filing a Notice of Disagreement. They might even incorrectly believe their claim is already on appeal.
You cannot file a Notice of Disagreement and also request reconsideration. Veterans who tried were asked to withdraw their appeals so reconsideration could move forward. These veterans were faced with a relatively obvious choice: risk losing the ability to appeal by asking for reconsideration or taking a claim to the BVA by submitting a Notice of Disagreement.
While the VA has tried to expedite the claims process and clear its backlog, it struggles to follow through on its plans. If you have been denied benefits or granted an inadequate disability percentage, an experienced VA claims attorney can help you navigate your way towards receiving the benefits you’ve earned through service.
If the VA has denied your claim and suggested reconsideration, give us a call at (888) 883-2483 or contact us online. Your consultation is free.