Denied VA Disability Benefits

By Douglas I. Friedman of Friedman Law Firm, P.C.

If you are denied VA disability, or your rating is not increased, or the increase is too low, you can appeal. A denied claim is just the beginning of the VA claims process. Unfortunately, the appeals waiting time varies greatly according to the type of the appeal and the location of the VA Regional Office.

After an initial Rating Decision, the next step is to appeal within the Regional Office. This appeal may be a full review of the record, with new evidence, by a Decision Review Officer, or it may be a review of just the record itself, without seeking new evidence. We usually request a DRO review, depending on the type of the claim. If we think that presenting additional evidence won’t make a difference, then we don’t request a DRO review.

If the RO appeal is not successful, the next step is an appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals. The BVA appeal may be just on the record, or it may be a hearing in front of a judge. Which route to take depends on whether giving testimony will help the claim. If the claim can be proven without testimony, then we don’t request a hearing.

Clients sometimes want to have a hearing anyway, but since too many things can go wrong at a hearing, we recommend one only if it’s necessary to prove the case. Also, the non-hearing route is usually much faster. A hearing may take two years to occur, while without a hearing the appropriate case may take just a few months.

The next appeal in the process is to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The CAVC is a federal court, similar to federal district courts, except that the CAVC hears only appeals of veterans claims. This is an appeal on the record and no new testimony or evidence is taken.

After the CAVC, appeals are to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and then to the U.S. Supreme Court. Very few cases are appealed to the Federal Circuit or the Supreme Court.

Each of these appeals involves rules of procedure, as well as substantive law. The cases are usually complex and involve subtle issues. Call us for counsel about the best way to proceed. We are here to advise you.