Veterans’ Affairs Launches New Benefit Appeals Process

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Veterans’ Affairs Launches New Benefit Appeals Process

One of the frustrating aspects of applying for disability benefits is the amount of time it takes for your application to be processed. Even when you have a perfectly valid claim, you could end up waiting years before you obtain the benefits you deserve. In the meantime, medical bills continue to pile up alongside all of your other daily living expenses.

Fortunately, Congress recognized this problem and passed reform legislation in 2017 to modernize the disability appeals process. The new rules were implemented earlier this year and should reduce the bottlenecks in the system. As of February 2019, there were 400,000 appeals awaiting a decision.

Three Options for Bringing an Appeal

The VA’s initial decision is not final. Instead, applicants have the ability to bring an appeal. Appeals serve a vital purpose in the system. Often, the person who initially reviews your claim has incomplete information or does not fully understand the evidence you have provided. As a result, your application might receive a lower rating than it deserves or might even be denied outright. On appeal, you have another chance to argue your case.

Under the recent reforms, applicants in Indiana and other states will have their choice of one of three different processes for appeal:

  • Supplemental claim. The applicant submits additional information to support the case. The regional office handles the appeal and makes a final decision.
  • Higher-level review. If the regional office misinterpreted the law or made an obvious error, an applicant can request that the senior claims adjudicator review and overturn the decision, if necessary. You cannot submit new evidence if you choose this review.
  • Direct appeal to Board of Veterans’ Affairs. You can request a hearing to testify before a Veterans Law Judge, or you can request a decision without a hearing.

Which Option is Best?

Applicants now face a difficult choice of which appeal to request. In some cases, the options are pretty clear-cut:

  • If you were denied benefits or given a low rating because of incomplete information, then a supplemental claim could be the best route. For example, you could supply additional medical records that show the full scope of your injury.
  • If the regional office made a mistake in interpreting the law or analyzing the evidence, you should request a review by a senior claims adjuster.
  • If you need a fast, authoritative decision, then going straight to the Board of Veterans’ Affairs could be your best bet.

In many situations, however, it is not clear which appeal is best, so it is best to meet with an experienced Veterans Benefits attorney for review.

Meet with Us for a Case Review

Applying for VA benefits can be a lengthy process, and an experienced attorney can help. At the Comerford Law Office, we represent people in Illinois and Indiana in the appeals process. We will gladly meet with you to review your case and identify the best path forward for requesting an appeal.

Please call us today to schedule a free case evaluation.

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