Being denied disability benefits is understandably frustrating, but don’t give up hope. If your initial application has been denied, an attorney can help you navigate the appeals process. While there are no guarantees, a significant number of applications are granted benefits on appeal.
Notice of Disagreement
A Notice of Disagreement (NOD) begins the appeals process. You should file the NOD at your Regional Office (RO) or mail it to the address on the letter you received informing you of the denial. Remember to keep a copy for your personal records.
The NOD will ask you to list each issue of disagreement, as well as whether the disagreement is related to your disability service connection, the evaluation of your disability, or the effective date of the award. However, you should state issues in general terms. If you provide specific information, this can limit your right to appeal issues that aren’t listed or that you weren’t aware of at the time you completed the form.
You can submit new evidence for your appeal with your NOD or at any other time in the process. This may include test results, doctor’s reports, or evidence to support specific issues disputed in your claim.
Statement of the Case
After your NOD is submitted, a Decision Review Officer (DRO) will review your request and the evidence available. If the DRO decides there isn’t enough evidence to proceed with the appeal, their findings will be sent to you in a document referred to as a Statement of the Case (SOC).
When you receive your SOC, you will be given VA Form 9. If you disagree with the findings in the SOC and want to continue your appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals, you must submit VA Form 9 within 60 days. VA Form 9 is more complex than the NOD. It is not recommended that you attempt to complete this form without consulting a veterans benefits attorney.
When your case is sent to the Board of Veterans Appeals, it will be reviewed according to the date listed on VA Form 9. It typically takes the VA 12-18 months to review new appeals. If you are requesting a review from the Veterans Law Judge at the Board of Veterans Appeals, it can take 5-7 years to get a decision.
Applicants who are over age 75 are referred to as Advanced on Docket. This means their appeals will be prioritized. Applicants under age 75 can apply for Advanced on Docket status if they need an expedited appeal due to financial distress, serious illness, or other extenuating circumstances.
The Board has three options for deciding on the issues listed in an appeal:
- Allowed. Benefits are granted.
- Denied. Benefits are not granted.
- Remanded. The Board needs more time to make a decision and will return your appeal to the Veterans Benefits Administration.
About 60% of appeals have at least one issue that is remanded.
It is not required, but you have a legal right to request a hearing with a Veterans Law Judge. At this hearing, the judge will ask questions about your appeal. A transcript will then be added to your file for when a decision is made at a later date.
Hearings can be done as a videoconference at your regional VA office, in-person at your regional VA office, or in-person at the Board in Washington, DC. A videoconference hearing will be typically be scheduled sooner than the other options. You will receive a notice of your hearing at least 30 days before the scheduled date.
How an Attorney Can Help
Experienced legal representation is the best way to protect your right to the benefits you earned while serving your country. You should contact an attorney as soon as you’ve made the decision to file a NOD. The office of Sean Kendall, Attorney-at-Law, has more than 20 years of experience helping Veterans of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard navigate the VA appeals process. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.