It isn’t at all unusual to receive a denial letter and ratings decision in response to your initial application for disability benefits from the VA. Though the waiting is notoriously drawn out and frustrating, the appeal process exists because the VA wants to be sure every qualifying veteran has a fair opportunity to correct mistakes and obtain the disability benefits they’ve earned.
VA Regional Office Appeal
Whether you’ve been approved or denied, the letter notifying you of the determination on your initial application is called an award letter. If you can provide relevant evidence in support of your claim, you can request reconsideration from the regional office.
If the reconsideration is unsuccessful—and it usually is—the next step is to file a Notification of Disagreement, or NOD letter, requesting an evidentiary hearing at the regional office. You have one year from the date printed on the award letter to file a NOD.
Upon receiving your NOD, the VA will reply with a Statement of the Case. The statement offers a detailed summary of your claim history, including:
- All evidence used in deciding your claim.
- Applicable regulations and laws.
- The reason your claim was denied.
Form 9, the VA’s Substantive Appeal form, is included with the statement. You have either 60 days or one year from the date of the original award letter to file—whichever date is later.
Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA)
Because most veterans are unsuccessful at the first level of appeal, many will continue on to the Board of Veterans’ appeals, or BVA. Board members are able to totally reevaluate every aspect of a claim filed by a veteran, the dependent of a veteran, or the survivor of a veteran. New evidence can also be taken under consideration at this level.
U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims (CAVC)
If appealing the BVA is unsuccessful, veterans and their families have 120 days to consider filing an appeal with CAVC. This court exists exclusively to reconsider BVA determinations. A few things to keep in mind with this level of appeal:
- Few cases are taken to this level.
- CAVC appeals are extremely formal.
- New evidence is not allowed.
- The CAVC is able to approve, deny, or send your claim back to the BVA for reconsideration.
- If you are awarded benefits, the VA is allowed to appeal the decision.
If you aren’t already working with an experienced Houston VA attorney, consider doing so prior to filing for this level of appeal.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
Very few cases are taken to this level; those that are will often set precedents for future claims.
Need to understand more about the process for appealing a denied VA disability claim? Schedule a free consultation with a dedicated Houston VA benefits attorney today. Call toll-free 877-898-1581or fill out the online contact form to learn more.
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.