It can be incredibly frustrating to receive a response from the VA denying your application for the benefits you need, or granting a ratings score that doesn’t accurately reflect the burden that service-connected disabilities have created for you and your family.
Sadly, it isn’t at all uncommon for veterans to disagree with their ratings scores or benefits decisions. Because of this, you have the ability to appeal your case. The first step is filing a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) letter with the VA. Here are some pointers on what to do—and what not to do—when filing a NOD letter to start the appeal process.
- File in time. You have one year from the date printed on the decision letter, not the date you received it.
- If using a form, use an appropriate one. Currently, the VA does not have an official NOD form, but often VA form 21-4138 (Statement in Support of Claim) is often used for this purpose. Otherwise, write a letter.
- Clearly indicate the form or letter is a NOD by writing “Notice of Disagreement” at the top.
- Ensure your name and date are prominently printed on the original VA decision letter.
- State that you disagree with all of the VA’s decisions in the denial letter.
- State that you intend to appeal your case.
- Indicate if you are requesting an appeal to a Decision Review Officer (DRO) at the office that issued the decision letter or to the Board of Veteran Appeals (BVA).
- Remember: keep the letter simple. This letter is to inform the VA of your intention to appeal, not detail your case.
- If you decide to include specific points of disagreement with the VA’s decision letter, be sure to state that it is not an exhaustive list.
- Sign and date the NOD.
- Retain a copy of the final letter for your files.
- Send the letter to the Texas VA office that sent the original denial office unless you have been informed that your case has been moved elsewhere.
- Use certified mail with a return receipt requested for proof that you met the filing deadline.
- Argue your case in the NOD.
- Mention any specific issues related to the VA’s decision without indicating that this isn’t an exhaustive list. This may limit your ability to address any issues you haven’t mentioned in the NOD, or issues that may come up later.
- Take any steps you are uncomfortable taking without first consulting a Texas VA benefits attorney to guide you through the appeal process.
If you are a veteran who is in disagreement with the VA on your benefits claim or ratings decision, we may be able to help. Call our offices toll-free (800-800-6353) to schedule a no-cost consultation today.
by Carl M. Weisbrod Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law