Last week we discussed how veterans can use a decision review officer to appeal a benefits denial from the VA. We reviewed the difference between a DRO and a hearing officer, and this week we will take a closer look at the informal conference and the decision making process.
As stated last week, sometimes a DRO will call and request an informal conference to get additional information not listed in the file. The DRO will set up a time to talk with the veteran and possibly the veteran’s legal representative, if they have one. These meetings can take place in person at the regional VA office, on the phone or via video conference.
If the veteran feels an informal conference is necessary, they may also request a meeting. The veteran may do so in person or by email, telephone, fax, or writing. Once the request is received the DRO will document it using a 119 form.
At the conference, the veteran and their representative may present new evidence and debate the existing facts in the file. Once the conference is complete the DRO will file an informal conference report, which will detail and recap all evidence introduced, arguments made and a plan of what steps will take place next.
The DRO’s decision cannot be less advantageous than the original decision, unless there is a clear and unmistakable error, which requires a glaringly obvious error and then a signature from a Veterans Service Center Manager.
Typically the DRO will decide to either uphold the original ruling or side with the veteran. When siding with the veteran, the DRO can either award full or partial benefits.
If the DRO gives full benefits they must assign a new rating decision and file a statement claiming full benefits have been awarded.
If only partial benefits are given the DRO must file the new rating, a Statement of Case, and an Appeals Response form.
If the original decision is upheld the DRO will file a Statement of Case detailing the reasoning to not overturn the original ruling.
Veterans can only appeal an unfavorable DRO’s decision by going to the Board of Veterans Appeals.
If you are thinking about appealing a denial, using a VA benefits attorney can save you time and stress. An attorney can point you in the right direction and guide you through the appeals process. Jan Dils Attorneys at Law has a wealth of experience in VA benefits and can help you get the compensation you need.