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4 Things To Do To Prepare For A VA Disability Appeal

Legally reviewed by Brendan Garcia , Owner and Lead Attorney

Getting approved for VA disability can sometimes be a long, drawn-out process. If you have recently been denied for VA disability benefits, you have a right to appeal the decision and go before a judge to prove your case. Before, it could take a long time before a veteran would be scheduled for an appeals hearing. Now, however, the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 has recently gone into effect which means that veterans and their families don’t have to wait as long for their appeals hearing and you now have more options during the appeals process.

If you have recently been denied the benefits that you feel you deserve, here is everything that you need to know about preparing for your VA disability appeal.

Choosing an Appeal Option

If you have recently received a letter that states you have been denied for VA disability benefits, don’t be discouraged; it is not uncommon for the Department of Veterans Affairs to deny an initial appeal. And thanks to the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, you have several ways to get the decision reversed. There are now three new options that allow you to have your cased review much quicker. You can choose between a Supplemental Claim, a Higher-Level Review, or a Board Appeal.

Supplemental Claim

With a supplemental claim, you are will be able to submit new evidence to the VA that may help to prove your disability. Usually, the VA takes around 125 days to review the new evidence and reach a decision. If you are unhappy with the decision, you can file the supplemental claim again and submit new evidence, or you can choose to have a higher-level review or a board appeal.

Higher-Level Review

With this option, you are not allowed to submit new evidence. Your initial claim will go through a quality check to ensure that everything was done correctly during the initial decision process. You have one year from the date that you filed your claim to have a higher-level review. If you are unsatisfied with this decision, you can choose the other two options.

Board Review

This is where you appeal the decision to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). You will need to file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) with the VA Form 9 and choose what type of appeal you would like. You could choose to have a hearing with the BVA through either a video conference or in person, or you could choose to submit new evidence without having a hearing.

If you are not satisfied with the decision of the board review, you can then file a supplemental claim within a year of the decision, or you have 120 days to file an appeal with the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

4 Things to Do to Prepare for Your VA Disability Appeal

If you have decided to submit a NOD and have decided to have a BVA appeal hearing, it may take quite a while before your hearing is scheduled. While you are waiting, here are four things that you can do to prepare for your upcoming BVA hearing.

1. Request a Copy of Your VA Case File

A VA case file, otherwise known as a C-File, is a record that VA keeps that includes vital information about your disability claim. Your C-File will be created at the time that you file your disability claim and the VA will continue to add things to the file as the case progresses. Some of the information that could be found in your C-File could include:

  • Your Benefits Application
  • Denial Letters
  • Rating Decisions and Code Sheets
  • Your Medical Records
  • Information regarding any appeal that has been made on this case

To get a copy of your C-File, you will need to contact your local VA Regional Office and fill out VA Form 3288 in order to have your information released. Another way to access your C-File is through your attorney. Since C-Files are now digital, Veterans Attorneys have access to them via VBMS.

Once you have thoroughly read through your C-File, you will have a better idea of why you were denied and what additional information may be needed in order for you to have a favorable outcome during your appeal.

2. Collect Evidence

While you have probably already submitted medical records and other evidence to the VA, it is a good idea to gather any additional information and evidence that you think may help your case. Try to look for any evidence that may be missing and bring it with you to your hearing.

3. Prepare for Your Presentation

Before presenting your case in front of a BVA judge, it is a good idea to practice your presentation. Try to think about what questions the judge would have about your case and then come up with an answer that is concise and straight to the point. In most cases, your answers shouldn’t need a drawn-out explanation. If you are able to stick to the facts and stay on topic, you are more likely to have a better outcome.

4. Contact a VA Disability Attorney

In order to improve your chances of having a favorable outcome, it is a good idea to talk with a veteran’s disability attorney. Your attorney will know the proper steps that need to be taken in order to have the best possible outcome. They can also help you with filling out forms and collecting evidence to ensure that you have the best chance of receiving the benefits that you deserve.