If you find that your disability claim was denied by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), filing an appeal could be your best chance to obtain the benefits you need. However, dealing with this process can be challenging without the right legal counsel. A veterans’ disability appeals lawyer could help you understand this process and advise you on pursuing your claim.

When an Appeal is Appropriate

There are different reasons why an appeal might be appropriate in a veteran’s disability claim. While an outright denial of a claim is one common reason for an appeal, former servicemembers also have the right to have their case reviewed if they believe the amount of benefits they receive is unfair.

Denied Claims

The most common reason to file an appeal in a VA disability case is an outright denial of benefits. If the VA denies the claim entirely, a veteran is not entitled to any monetary benefits whatsoever. Examples of why a former servicemember claim might be denied include:

  • Missed deadline;
  • Lack of medical records;
  • Pre-existing condition;
  • Lack of diagnosis; and
  • Lack of in-service evidence.

Fortunately, it is possible to address all these factors during the appellate process. In fact, it is not uncommon for a veteran to secure benefits on appeal after their initial claim is denied.

Inadequate Benefits

Appeals are not just for addressing denied claims. Often, the VA will grant a claim but provide an inadequate amount of benefits. Former servicemembers who believe their assigned disability rating does not adequately reflect their level of impairment are entitled to pursue an appeal, even if their claim was technically approved. A higher disability rating will require additional evidence but will ultimately leave a veteran with more disability benefits each month.

What to do to Prepare for a VA Appeal

A denial of a VA disability claim does not mark the end of a veteran’s chances of recovering benefits. After every denial, there are a series of steps available to appeal this decision. The most important thing for a former servicemember to do is to not give up on the process after receiving the letter of denial.

Any veteran who sees their claim denied should maintain copies of all correspondence from the VA, including the decision letter which describes the reason for the denial. This document is important for the success of a former servicemember’s appeal.

Ultimately, the most important step to prepare for the VA disability appeals process involves hiring an attorney. The process of appealing a disability benefits denial is complex, and even minor errors can have devastating effects on a veteran’s chances of success. A lawyer could maximize the chances of a favorable appeal following a veteran’s disability benefits denial.

Steps to Appealing a Denial

There are three different decision review options for former servicemembers to appeal decisions made by the VA on or after February 19, 2019. As long as the claim is continuously pursued, meaning all appeals are filed within one year of the decision, the effective date will remain intact. While a vet may choose to go through this process alone, it is not recommended. An experienced attorney could guide former servicemembers throughout their appeals by offering legal advice and advocacy every step of the way.

Supplemental Claim

The first decision review option is a supplemental claim. A veteran can file a supplemental claim if they have new and relevant evidence that was not considered at the time of denial. New evidence is evidence not previously part of the record, and relevant evidence is information that can prove or disprove a matter at issue in an appeal.

Higher-Level Review

The next appellate option is a higher-level review. A senior reviewer takes a new look at the veteran’s claim and determines whether the VA’s decision can be overturned based on a difference of opinion or an error. New evidence cannot be submitted with this review option.

Board Appeal

The final decision review option is a Board appeal. This appeals the claim to a Veterans Law Judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. There are three options to choose from with a Board appeal. First, a veteran may request a direct review. A judge will review the appeal based on evidence already submitted with no hearing. Second, former servicemembers may submit more evidence for a judge to review within 90 days of the appeal being filed. The third and final option is to request a hearing with a Veterans Law Judge. Additional evidence can be submitted at the hearing or within 90 days after the hearing.

How a Lawyer Could Help with an Appeal

While there is no requirement for a veteran to hire legal counsel to assist them with the appeals process, there are serious risks associated with handling an appeal without legal representation. The rules and procedures for an appeal are complex, and minor technical errors could result in the denial of an appeal regardless of how strong the grounds are.

An attorney could help avoid damaging errors during the appellate process by ensuring a former servicemember complies with all filing deadlines and provides any additional documentation requested by the VA. Otherwise, pushing back on the reason for a VA benefits denial requires providing the VA with a clear link between the disability and a service-related incident, as well as necessary medical documentation to establish a diagnosis. What’s more, an attorney could push the case forward and avoid unnecessary delays during the appeals process.

Another way that an attorney could assist with a veteran’s appeal is by pushing for a higher rating. Securing a higher rating for a disability could provide a former servicemember with more than just higher future benefit payments. It is also possible to secure additional reimbursement for prior payments if an attorney successfully argues that the rating was too low. This amount could be substantial if the increase was significant or if the appeals process lasted several months.

Contact a Disability Appeals Attorney As Soon As Possible

A denied disability claim is not the end of your chances for recovering VA disability benefits. With the right approach during an appeal, you could see a reversal of your denial. If you are ready to keep fighting a denied claim, a veterans’ disability appeals lawyer could help. To learn more, call today for a confidential evaluation.

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