For veterans who apply for disability benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, more commonly referred to as the VA, claim denials are unfortunately common. Even more common, however, are problems with VA disability benefits claim approvals. These issues, typically involving incorrect disability ratings and effective dates, can significantly reduce the amount of your benefits.
Appealing a VA claim decision can be a confusing and daunting prospect. The importance of using the right forms, providing accurate information, and attaching the right supporting documents cannot be overemphasized. Otherwise you could end up with another denial or a refusal to reconsider the previous decision, leaving you with financial hardships you didn’t anticipate.
The experienced VA disability benefits attorneys of Gerling Law Disability Attorneys can help. We offer a free consultation to help you decide the best course of action and to explain your options for filing a VA disability benefits claim appeal. In addition, we do not charge a fee unless we are successful.
How Common Are VA Disability Benefits Claim Denials?
The challenges of getting VA claims approved have been well-documented over the years. After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the problem worsened. The VA denied disability claims to thousands of applicants after in-person medical appointments were temporarily eliminated due to coronavirus concerns. Being forced to use telemedicine services made it impossible for many veterans to get the exams necessary to get their benefits claims approved.
Although no actual statistics are published by the VA on what percentage of claims are denied, reports indicate a high rate of denials for certain types of claims, such as those related to toxic exposure in burn pits, a long-time problem that comedian John Stewart waged a public battle over in recent years.
Even more common and problematic than denials, however, are VA disability claim approvals that are based on incorrect effective dates and incorrect VA disability ratings. Often, veterans must appeal the details of a claim approval to get the record straight, so they can get the full amount of benefits they deserve.
Appealing VA Disability Claims Decisions
If you aren’t sure where your claim is in the process, the best way to start is by checking the status of your VA disability claim. Once you get a decision and have time to review it, you can either accept the decision or appeal it. Whether you received a denial or an unsatisfactory approval, you typically have only one year from the date of a VA disability claim decision to appeal.
The process for appealing a VA disability claim requires that you select one of three types of appeals, which are as follows.
- Supplemental claim,
- Higher-level review, and
- Board of Veterans Affairs (BVA) appeal.
A supplemental claim is an appropriate choice if you have new evidence to provide in support of your claim. A higher-level review is appropriate if you want a senior reviewer to revisit the rendered decision based upon records that were already on file. A BVA appeal can be elected as well if you would prefer your case go directly to a judge for review.
When you elect a BVA appeal, you have three options to choose from. You can elect direct review by a Veterans Law Judge which is similar to electing higher-level review at the VA level. You can elect evidence submission review by a Veterans Law Judge, which is similar to a supplemental claim and requires new evidence to be submitted.
The last option to elect is to have a hearing with a Veterans Law Judge. You can always start at the VA level first with your supplemental claim or higher-level review. If you are unhappy with the outcome of a supplemental claim review or a higher-level review, filing a board appeal would be the next step in the appeals process.
Important Note: The Appeal Process for VA Claims Has Changed
Prior to February 2019, the appeals process was different than it is today. If you have an appeal that was initiated prior to that time, you can track it through the VA’s legacy appeals interface.
Although the VA website is updated with all the relevant information on the updated process, you may come across websites that reference the retired appeals process. Be careful to ensure that you’re following up-to-date advice before you attempt to file an appeal.
The best way to approach this challenging situation may be to have an experienced VA disability benefits attorney on board to assist you.
Finding a Veterans Disability Attorney to Help with VA Claim Appeals
Although filing VA appeals on your own is not impossible, having an experienced VA disability benefits lawyer to assist you can make a world of difference.
The VA denies claims for a variety of reasons. For example, they deny claims that were submitted on the wrong forms or because the forms weren’t filled out correctly or completely. Most often, however, the VA denies disability claims because they lack sufficient documentation to prove a service-related disability.
This is also one of the most common reasons for claim approvals that don’t have the correct effective date or that include too low of a disability rating.
Before you decide how to proceed with a VA disability benefits claim appeal, take a moment to speak with a disability attorney from Gerling Law Disability Attorneys. For more than a half-century, our experienced attorneys have been fighting for the rights of our clients. We work quickly, compassionately, and aggressively, working tirelessly to help you recover the compensation you deserve.