Veterans have been experiencing long wait times for VA claims for quite some time. Though the VA is working to address this issue of VA appeals process, the backlog is due to many factors and not limited to just one area of the Veterans Disability claims process. For this reason, you may experience a longer wait time in one part of the claims process as compared to another. Also, some states experience longer wait times than others for VA disability appeals. The wait time that you may experience will generally be related to the VA Regional Office that processes your claim. Your permanent address will determine which VA Regional Office your claim is assigned to.
After filing the initial application, you may receive a rating decision from the VA indicating a denial of disability benefits, in which case you may initiate the VA appeals process. Reopening a previously denied claim or requesting an increase can take anywhere from 6-18 months.
The rating decision will explain in detail whether you are granted or denied benefits. This decision can be appealed within 1 year by filing VA Form 21-0958, the Notice of Disagreement.
Also referred to as a NOD, this appeal must be filed within 1 year of your rating decision. The appeal should indicate which issues you are challenging. At this time, you have the option to request a hearing with a Decision Review Officer or have the VA issue A Statement of the Case (another decision).
The DRO Hearing is somewhat informal and will give you and your representative an opportunity to discuss all issues on appeal and available evidence. It can take a year or more to receive a hearing date. If you choose to forgo the hearing and ask for a decision, this decision is called a Statement of the Case (SOC).
If you are granted benefits following a DRO Hearing, you will typically receive a DRO Decision. Much like a rating decision, you will have 1 year to file a Notice of Disagreement on any issues that you do not agree with. Receiving this decision can take several months following your hearing.
Sometimes you will receive an SSOC. This is typically an update to the SOC you previously received. If the SSOC lists the same issues that were listed on your SOC, and you have already appealed the SOC to the BVA, then you need not appeal. If there are any issues listed on the SSOC that were not appealed previously, you will have 30 days to file a VA-9 to the BVA so those issues will be addressed as well. (It is always best to confirm with your attorney if anything needs to be appealed.)
When you file a VA-9, you have the opportunity to request a BVA Hearing. It can take a year or more to receive your BVA Hearing date. This hearing will address all issues on appeal to the BVA, will be held with an Administrative Law Judge, and may take place via video-teleconference.
After your hearing has taken place, you will receive a BVA Decision. The issues on the decision may be granted, denied, or even remanded (or sent back) to the VA Regional Office for further development.
Depending on the outcome of the BVA Decision, you may decide to start over at the initial level, appeal to a higher court, or you may be satisfied with the decision. In any event, having an attorney throughout the entire process who specializes in Veterans’ Disability can help make these decisions easier.
The Board of Veterans Appeals may decide to remand your claim after their review. Remand is another word for “send back.” If the Board remands your claim, your file will return to the VA Regional Office. In most instances, the Board will direct the Regional Office on how to proceed. This may mean collecting additional evidence, scheduling an examination, or assigning a rating to a service-connected condition.
If you are filing a disability claim with the VA, it is vital that you are backed by the right legal expertise. A Veterans’ Disability Benefits Lawyer at our firm will guide you through the crucial application of the VA appeals process or assist you in making an appeal. We will aggressively pursue your claim and make sure that you receive the benefits that you need and deserve. Call now to learn more.