VA disability benefits are a financial lifeline for Veterans with service-connected disabilities that require costly medical care, limit their ability to work, and negatively affect their qualify of life. However, the application and appeal process is notoriously complex.
Working with an experienced attorney will help you protect your right to VA disability benefits. Your attorney will help you build the strongest possible case, but reviewing this glossary of terms can help you understand what to expect from the different steps in the application and appeals process.
VA Disability Benefits Glossary
Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA). When a review from the VA Regional Office is not successful, a Veteran can appeal the denial of benefits with the BVA. Videoconference, travel board, and Washington, D.C. hearings are available.
Clear and Unmistakable Error (CUE). A CUE claim means that an error is severe enough it would be obvious to reasonable minds, and it would have changed the outcome of the decision at the time the case was decided. Common CUE claims involve reducing disability ratings without citing a specific law or regulation, failing to consider crucial pieces of evidence, or awarding benefits based on a single injury when a Veteran suffered multiple injuries in the same accident.
Compensation and Pension (C&P) Exam. A C&P exam is conducted by a VA-affiliated care provider who determines the severity of a Veteran's disability and whether it is service-connected. In some cases, Veterans may need a general C&P exam and a second C&P exam performed by a specialist trained in evaluating their particular condition.
Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC). When a CAVC decision isn’t favorable, a Veteran can appeal to the CAFC. This is the last step before appealing to the Supreme Court.
Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). The CAVC reviews appeals to determine whether BVA law has been applied correctly. Offices are located in Washington, D.C., but all case communication is handled virtually.
Decision Review Officer (DRO). If your initial application is denied, a DRO is the senior technical expert authorized by the VA to review the claim to determine if it was evaluated correctly. This is often the first step in the appeals process.
Nexus letter. A nexus letter is a letter from a medical professional that connects your illness or injury to your in-service event. This letter is often referred to as “linchpin” evidence because it is so important to your case.
Notice of Disagreement (NOD). The NOD is your written statement indicating that you’re unhappy with the VA Regional Office’s decision and wish to appeal. You need to file your NOD within one year of the Regional Office’s decision. The NOD can be used if your application was denied, if you disagree with the rating assigned to your disability, or if you believe you should have been assigned a different effective date for your service-connected disability.
Regional Office (RO). Initial applications for VA disability benefits are sent to the RO, sometimes referred to as the Regional Benefits Office.
Statement in Support of Claim. Also known as a buddy letter, this is a statement from a friend, family member, or someone you served with who can provide information about your disability or the incident that caused your disability.
Statement of the Case (SOC). Your SOC explains the VA decision to deny your benefits. Reviewing the SOC helps you determine the steps for your appeal. However, if your case is under the modern system, you will not receive a Statement of the Case.
Substantive appeal. A substantive appeal presents specific arguments that are related to errors of fact or law in the decision made by the Regional Office.
Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU). TDIU benefits provide compensation for disabled Veterans at the 100% rate because they have conditions that prevent them from maintaining substantially gainful employment. Eligibility for TDIU is determined based on the severity of the Veteran's disability and how it affects their ability to work, but it is sometimes possible to work and receive benefits.
We’re Here to Help You Get the Benefits You Deserve
The office of Sean Kendall, Attorney-at-Law, is committed to helping Veterans access the VA disability benefits they’ve earned in service of their county. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.