Navigating the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) appeals process can be a challenging experience. Learn about the top strategies to navigate your VA appeals claim and increases your chances of success.
- Know Your Appeal Options
The first step is to understand the VA appeals process. After receiving a VA decision dated on or after February 19, 2019, veterans have the following three decision review options: (1) Supplemental Claim, (2) Higher-Level Review, or (3) Board of Veterans’ Appeal (BVA). If you disagree with the BVA decision, the final level of appeal is at the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC).
Generally, you have one year from the date of your decision letter to appeal. However, there are exceptions to this timeline, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the VA rules, next steps, and deadlines at the outset.
Veterans are encouraged to obtain their VA claims file, called a C-file, to ensure that it contains all the relevant medical records, statements from physicians and loved ones, and documentation to support their case. You can request your complete VA file by submitting a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request to the VA.
- Seek Assistance
Consider seeking assistance from the start of the process. Having a dedicated VA-benefits attorney who knows your claim, understands the process, and helps you present your case may be crucial to successfully navigating the different appeal options. VA-accredited representatives or Veterans Special Office personnel can also provide valuable assistance in gathering evidence, filling out forms, and supporting you in the appeals process.
- Gather and Submit Relevant Evidence
Consistently gathering and submitting new and relevant evidence on your VA disability claim can significantly increase your chances of success. This includes being honest with your physicians about your physical and mental health developments to ensure your condition is accurately documented in your VA file and medical records.
In some cases, the VA may require you to attend a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam to evaluate your condition. It is essential to attend these exams because they may provide valuable evidence to support your case. If you are unable to attend the exam, be sure to inform the VA as soon as possible and find a time to reschedule.
- Keep the VA Informed and Keep Trying
If you move or change your address or contact details, be sure to update your information with the VA as soon as possible. This will ensure that you receive all important notifications and timely updates on your appeal.
It is important to be patient throughout the VA appeals process. It can take months, or even years, to receive a decision on your appeal. Staying persistent and determined throughout the process is a key to success.
With the right strategies and help from experienced VA-benefits attorneys as well as VA services, veterans can successfully navigate the appeals process, increase their chances of a successful outcome, and receive the benefits they deserve.