Long-time readers of this blog will tell you that I preach to Veterans about getting medical treatment in order to service connection for VA Disability Compensation. I repeat myself as much as Comedy Central repeats “The Daily Show.” I do it because it is important. While medical evidence is important to any claim for VA disability, it means even more for a claim that has closed. We’re going to examine this in a little more detail later on, but let’s first look at how a claim closes.
I get calls all of the time from Veterans who will say something like; “I’m going to get my benefits back to 1978!” While that is not impossible, it’s important to realize that it is extremely rare. In fact, it’s rarer than a good Eddie Murphy film. But why is it so rare? The answer is simple; it’s rare because claims can close. At each level of the VA disability process, you have decisions that have to be appealed. Sometimes you have a year to file an appeal, but other times you only have 30 days to take action. Sometimes that action is filing an appeal, sometimes it’s requesting a hearing, but the important thing to remember is that there are deadlines. Failure to respond to these deadlines will result in the closure of your case. The longest period of time you have to take action is one year, and that is after the initial decision. That is why I tend to be more than a bit skeptical when someone tells me their claim has been going on since Carter was in office.
Often when someone suggests that they have a claim that is old I’ll ask a follow-up question. I’ll often ask when they last received a decision. The answer to this is something like 10-15 years ago. When asked if they filed an appeal the answer is either “no,” or “yes, but I have not heard anything yet.” I agree, the VA is slow, but it does not take them a decade to make a decision. There are a number of reasons a Veteran may not be aware the VA made a decision, but I’ve personally never seen them neglect a case for 10 years.
So, most likely your case has closed. If this is accurate, your case will have to be reopened. If your cased is reopened it is like starting over again from the beginning. It is important to keep in mind that if a claim is closed, you will also lose your back pay date. If you want to reopen your claim, you have to have new and material evidence. So, what is new and material evidence? According to the Cornell University Law School, new and material evidence is defined as the following: New evidence means existing evidence not previously submitted to agency decision-makers. Material evidence means existing evidence that by itself or when considered with previous evidence of record, relates to an unestablished fact necessary to substantiate the claim. New and material evidence can be neither cumulative nor redundant of the evidence of record at the time of the last prior final denial of the claim sought to be reopened and must raise a reasonable possibility of substantiating the claim.
That sounds pretty complicated, but it’s actually quite simple. New and material evidence is essentially something that has not been submitted prior. New medical evidence is the most common type of new evidence that is submitted. If you haven’t received medical treatment since your claim was closed, or have evidence that was not submitted prior, then you’re not likely going to get a favorable decision.
If you would like to know more about reopening a claim, or if you’d like to learn about becoming a client, give me a call for a free consultation. You can reach me on our toll-free number: 1-877-526-3457. If you’d rather be contacted at another time, fill out this form now.