This article was originally featured on our NWI Veterans’ Law website.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reviews each VA claim they receive. Veterans or their widows who have a VA claim denied are often confused, frustrated, and angry. An initial claim denial is common, and you have a right to appeal the decision.
Your appeal, if it’s a strong one, can reverse the initial decision if you file your Notice of Disagreement (NOD), Higher-Level Review (HLR), or a Supplemental Claim to “appeal” the decision before the deadline.
The steps you take after being denied are not only important but often time sensitive.
What are the next steps if you’ve been denied?
Filing a VA claim is tedious and overly complicated. A denial can be devastating and many veterans or their spouses give up at this point. Denials can happen for a lot of reasons, not all of which are related to the validity of your claim.
Option #1: File a Notice of Disagreement (NOD)
A NOD lets the VA know that you don’t agree with their denial and that you plan to go through with the appeals process. You only have one year from the date your denial was sent to file a Notice of Disagreement so make sure not to sit on the denial for too long.
A NOD should be kept short and to the point. It’s important not to get too emotional at this stage and it’s not uncommon for a veteran to send in a lengthy explanation with the NOD on why they believe the decision is wrong. The issue with providing specifics in the NOD is that you may leave out important details.
If those details are not mentioned, new evidence will have to be provided to show that a legal error was made by the VA. Providing only general information will prevent you from having to file a new claim.
An attorney will be best suited to help when filing your NOD and working on your appeal.
Option #2: Request a senior rating specialist to review your case
You can also request Higher Level Review instead of filing a NOD.
A senior rating specialist will review your appeal if you file an HLR request. It is important to keep in mind that HLR review is only designed to overturn a decision if you don’t want to submit any new evidence. However, there is a procedure by which a HLR request can lead to you being able to provide additional information.
Option #3: File a Supplemental Claim
If you want to submit additional evidence, but do not want to present your case to a veterans law judge at the BVA, this is the option to choose. If you file a Supplemental Claim within one year of the date of your VA denial, you generally still maintain the earliest possible effective date based on your old claim.
Be Prepared to Wait
Once you file your paperwork, be prepared to wait. Appeals to BVA can take a year or even longer, depending on whether you choose to request a hearing with a veterans law judge or not, can take 18 months, and the VA is routinely understaffed.
An attorney will do their best to expedite the process, but there’s little that can be done aside from providing the pertinent information needed to make a decision on your case, and ensuring VA is aware of any special circumstances that would allow your case to be moved to the front of the line, such as homelessness, advanced age, a terminal illness, or severe financial hardship. So if any of those conditions apply to you, make sure to inform your attorney.
What Happens Next if My VA Claim Was Denied?
When a review of your case is complete, the decision may be upheld or reversed. The appeals process is complex, and it’s far too common to have a claim denied. Claim denials are more common than they should be and often times just seem to be denied in hopes that the Veteran will give up. Not giving up is key and that is why I will fight for the VA compensation you deserve.