As a current or former member of the military, you made a huge sacrifice to defend your country. However, your dedication to your country may be responsible for injuries or illnesses you are still suffering from. If you were injured during your time as a service member, you deserve compensation for your service-related disabilities.
Unfortunately, many Veterans discover that their VA disability request was rejected, or they are assigned a disability rating that they believe should be higher.
If you are a Veteran looking to secure the full disability benefits you need, the experienced Veterans disability lawyers at Berry Law Firm can guide you through the 2020 VA appeals process.
Over two years ago, the United States Congress approved the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act (AMA) of 2017. Between then and February 2019, the Department of Veterans Affairs worked to implement the mandated changes with a different system. That means that the VA disability benefits and appeals process has changed significantly from what you may be used to.
If your disability claim was denied or seems too low, your next step is the new VA disability appeals process. Before tackling that process, call the Berry Law Firm to find out how our lawyers can help you.
Recent Changes to the VA Disability Appeals Process
The primary goal of the Veterans Appeals and Improvement Act of 2017 was to streamline the system so that qualified Veterans receive the money they deserve quicker. The changes to the VA disability appeals process are supposed to speed up claims.
As you might expect, they still require you to take specific steps to get your benefits. You have three appeal options:
- Higher-Level Review: In this system, “a more experienced claims adjudicator” will review your claim. This claims adjudicator will look at your prior claim and documentation. They will try to correct any errors their predecessors made, but you won’t have the opportunity to submit new evidence. This option is meant to correct the VA’s errors in an average of 125 days.
- Supplemental Claim: This option allows you to add new information to your claim in order to increase your benefits. You might want to choose this if you think you have new evidence of your disability. For example, if you were recently given a buddy statement about PTSD or another ongoing illness, you could add that information to your claim. The process is also supposed to take an average of 125 days.
- Appeal to the Board. There are three options within this choice: direct review, evidence submission, and a hearing. This is a slower route that includes the possibility to appeal. If you are unhappy with your supplemental claim or higher-level review, this may be a good option.
Each of these options works differently, and they each have advantages and disadvantages. While the system has been restructured to be easier, you still have to make important tactical decisions to make in order to receive your benefits. A lawyer can help you understand the claims process and help you craft the most effective appeal.
What Are the Most Common Reasons VA Disability Claims Get Rejected?
In order to receive VA disability benefits, you have to meet several requirements. According to the VA:
- You must have served active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training
- You must have a disability rating because of your service-related injury
And one of the following must also be true:
- You got sick or injured during your service.
- You have a pre-existing illness or injury that was worsened during service.
- You have an injury or illness related to your service that appeared after your service ended.
When the VA denies your claim, it’s because they’ve found you don’t meet one of these requirements. Sometimes denials happen because of process errors. They might find that:
- Your claim is missing service records or supporting evidence.
- There isn’t enough evidence of an injury or illness.
- You missed your VA claim exam (also known as a C&P exam).
- Your injury or illness is not related to your service. For example, they find that there is no evidence that your knee problems that appeared are related to your service.
What Is the Process to Increase VA Disability?
Since 2019, the revised VA disability appeals process has been instituted in order to make the system faster and easier. By February 2020, all appeals must go through the AMA system. You will no longer be able to appeal through the legacy system.
If you received your decision after February 2019, you will be able to appeal it using the three tracks described by the VA on this fact sheet.
You will be able to submit new evidence in a supplemental claim or ask for a higher-level review to correct errors the VA made. If you are unhappy, you can further appeal these claims to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals or the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. There are many options to consider, and our experienced VA appeals lawyers at Berry Law Firm can help. We know how the system functions, and will do everything we can to help you win your appeal.
How Can Berry Law Firm Help?
The changes to VA disability appeals process give you more choices than before and will hopefully speed up your appeal. That doesn’t mean the new system is easy. Our experienced attorneys can help you navigate VA appeals because we’ve done it many times before. On top of that, many of our lawyers are Veterans themselves. We understand the struggles Veterans face when returning from active-duty, and we are dedicated to fighting on their behalf.
We can investigate and gather evidence to prove that your disability is related to your time in service. We are accredited by the VA and know what the judges are looking for to verify your service-connected disability, and we have experience in every VA Regional Office in the United States.