If you’re a military veteran who has a service-related disability, you may qualify for benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA). Though the VA is severely back logged with claims, you can’t obtain benefits without first filing for them. If you’ve filed and you claim has been denied, you may be able to appeal that denial. If you filed a claim and disagree with the disability determination, you may be able to appeal the determination
1) File your claim.
This can be done at a local VA office, VA medical facility or online at www.vba.va.org
The local office makes a decision to allow or deny your claim. If it doesn’t go your way, you can appeal it.
3) Notice of Disagreement (NOD)
If you not satisfied with the decision, write a statement to the local VA office stating you disagree and are seeking an appeal. This is the Notice of Disagreement. It must be sent to the VA within one year of date of the mailing of the denial of your benefits. You may request the file be reviewed by a Decision Review Officer from the local VA office. This person will review the entire file and can hold a hearing on your claim.
4) Statement of the Case (SOC)
After the office receives the NOD, it will create a Statement of the Case (SOC). It’s a detailed explanation of the facts, laws and regulations used by the VA in making its decision. The local VA office will mail the SOC to you, along with a VA Form 9 (Substantive Appeal Form).
5) Form 9
To finish the internal VA appeal process, this form must be filled out and sent back to the local VA office. It needs to include the benefits sought, the mistakes in the SOC and whether or not you want a personal hearing. The VA must get the Form 9 within 60 days of the date the SOC was mailed, or within a year of the date of the mailing of the original denial, whichever is later.
6) Personal Hearing
The appeal will be made with, or without, a personal hearing, which would be with either a VA official at the local office or someone from the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. If you want the hearing, it will be a meeting with you, your attorney and the person from the VA deciding your case. The hearing with the board member can be in Washington, DC, through a videoconference at the local VA office, or a board member may be present at the local office.
These are informal hearings, but you’ll be asked to take an oath to tell the truth. You’ll have the opportunity to provide information. Your attorney can ask you questions to help you explain your case. The VA official might also ask you questions. A decision won’t be made at the hearing. A transcript of the hearing will be part of your file. The information will be reviewed and a decision made.
The decision will be to allow your claim, deny it or remand it for further investigation. If the claim is denied, you can try to reopen it at the local VA office, ask the Board to review it again because of a clear and unmistakable error, file an appeal at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, or accept the decision.
Because of the importance of ensuring that veterans receive the benefits to which they are entitled, the Department of Veterans Affairs requires that any attorney who represents a claimant must become accredited to do so. Robert Stevens, Esq., of Szaferman, Lakind, has been accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs to help veterans through this daunting and often frustrating process. He can be reached at (609) 275-0400.