Veterans Chances of Winning a VA Disability Appeal
First, we want to start this article with a disclaimer (the lawyer stuff). The percentages of approvals and denials listed below are statistical data released by the Veterans Benefits Administration. Past performance of VA disability appeals do not guarantee future performance. The percentages of denials and approvals listed later in this article are not from our law firm. In fact, it would be an ethical violation for our VA disability compensation lawyers to release our win/loss rate.
Your chances of winning a VA disability appeal are solely based upon your claim’s strength. There is no substitute for good evidence, carefully crafted briefs to the BVA, and a deep understanding of VA disability law. A later section of this article covers what steps you can take to increase your chances of winning a VA disability appeal.
Statistics on VA Disability Appeals Denials & Approvals
According to the VA, below are the 2017 approval and denial rates for VA disability claims at the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA). This number does not include denials and approvals on initial applications. Remember, many claims are remanded at the BVA instead of approved or denied. That means the BVA sends them back down the chain for reconsideration.
Percent of VA Disability Appeals Denied at the BVA
- 27.05% denied with no representative
- 26.47% denied with AMVETS representative
- 23.40% denied with DAV representative
- 22.05% denied with VFW representative
- 13.79% denied with an attorney
Percent of VA Disability Appeals Approved at the BVA
- 24.42% approved with no representative
- 26.10% approved with AMVETS representative
- 27.26% approved with DAV representative
- 27.89% approved with VFW representative
- 39.49% approved with an attorney
How to Increase Your Chances of Winning a VA Disability Appeal
There’s no magic trick, silver bullet, or secret to increasing your chances of winning a VA disability appeal. Sorry. But there are steps you can take to improve your chances of winning a VA disability appeal. Below are some of the tools veterans can use to increase their chances of winning a VA disability appeal.
Good Medical Evidence: Don’t assume the VA is going to comb-through your Claims File (C-File) for you. Many veterans C-Files are thousands of pages long. The VA simply doesn’t have enough time or manpower to review every record in every veterans C-File. Many C-Files are photocopied and hard to read. At Woods & Woods, our Case Analysts spend thousands of hours every year reading veterans medical records looking for that one little piece of evidence we need to win claims. We highly suggest you read your entire C-File as well. There may be some little piece of information or a doctor’s note that could help your chances of winning a VA disability appeal.
Service-Connection Link: Many veterans file their claims with lots of medical evidence but fail to link their medical conditions to their service. You can increase your chances of winning a VA disability appeal by showing the VA how your physical and mental conditions are related to your time in the service. Our VA benefits appeals lawyers regularly review denied claims that failed to show a link to service. Many veterans also don’t understand how to service-connected all their conditions – this can be an art.
Secondary Service-Connected Impairments: You need to also grasp secondary service-connected conditions to obtain your highest rating possible. Often, when we first talk to veterans that received denials, they are shocked how we can service-connect many of their conditions because they are secondary. Many mental and physical conditions are medically linked and that’s why we regularly use doctors reports for our clients’ claims.
Doctor Reports: For a large number of the VA disability appeals Woods & Woods files, we have a doctor outside the VA review medical records. Veterans can do this on their own too, but it can be expensive, so shop around. Our doctor will write a report linking our client’s medical conditions to their service. The doctor’s report will also link secondary conditions to the initial service-connected conditions.
Psychological Reports: If you were rated too low or denied VA disability benefits for a mental condition, you may want to consider using a psychologist to obtain a report. This is a tool our veterans disability benefits lawyers use for a large number of the mental condition claim appeals we file. You can use reports from psychologists to show the VA how your condition is service-connected. You can also use these reports to document that you actually have a mental condition. These reports can also detail the severity of your mental condition in the hopes of obtaining the highest rating possible. Psychological reports are a great way to increase your chances of winning a VA disability appeal for mental conditions.
Vocational Reports: If you are hoping to obtain Total Disability Individual Unemployability benefits, you are going to want documentation of how your service-connected disabilities prevent you from working. Our veterans disability benefits lawyers use vocational experts to try to increase clients’ chances of winning a VA disability appeal for Individual Unemployability all the time. Vocational experts can create reports detailing how your service-connected disabilities are responsible for your unemployability. This evidence can help veterans chances of winning a VA disability appeal for Individual Unemployability benefits.
Buddy Statements: As we mentioned before, buddy statements can help prove events that happened that may have not been recorded. For example, many veterans find their service record is missing an enemy ambush in Vietnam, a sexual assault on an aircraft carrier, an IED attack in Iraq, or that the service member witnessed the death of a close friend in basic training. Buddy statements are often used to increase a veterans chances of winning a VA disability appeal for claims like PTSD. These statements are simply a written account of the event from someone that you served with who was a witness to the event. Buddy statements can be a powerful tool that veterans can use to increase their chances of winning a VA disability appeal.
Lay Statements: These are statements from family and friends. We will once again use a PTSD claim as an example. Lay statements can help a vet’s chances of winning a VA disability appeal for PTSD. The statement will want to show how the veteran changed when they came home from service. Talk about how the veteran’s personality is different than before military service. Discuss their daily routines, habits, paranoia, anger issues, withdrawal from society and whatever else may prove the veteran has PTSD.
Will an Attorney Help My Chances of Winning a VA Disability Appeal?
There is no guarantee that hiring a veterans disability benefits lawyer will improve your chances of winning a VA disability appeal. Any veterans disability benefits lawyer that tells a client “you have a slam-dunk case” is being dishonest. However, you can improve your chances of winning a VA disability appeal by submitting everything to the VA correctly, using case law, legal precedent, legal research, and using evidence correctly.
For example, many of the denied PTSD claims that make their way to our lawyers are turned down because the veteran does not correctly identify and verify a PTSD stressor. There are lots of different ways to prove PTSD stressors that our lawyers use. These are simple tools that our lawyers have learned filing thousands of VA disability appeals. Buddy statements and incorporating the stressor into your BVA brief can make all the difference. You can’t expect the VA to just accept your word a stressor event happened. Act like a veterans disability benefits lawyer and make a strong case.
Another example is for veterans that have missing service records. Lots of veterans have their VA disability denied because of missing service records. An experienced veterans disability benefits lawyer can help you prove your claim with missing service records. We once had a veteran who was denied Agent Orange disability benefits because there were no records of him in Vietnam. We submitted photos of him in Vietnam, lay statements from friends and family, and buddy statements from fellow Army veterans. He went on to win his claim because the evidence was overwhelming that he had boots on the ground in Vietnam.
Learn More: Calculate your rating with our VA Disability Benefits Rating Calculator
Talk to a Lawyer About Your Chances of Winning a VA Disability Appeal
Not sure about your chances of winning a VA disability appeal? Let’s talk about your denial or low-rating. We can discuss your appeal, evidence, Rating Decision letter, and determine if we think you should appeal. Sometimes we have to tell veterans they shouldn’t appeal because they are receiving the correct rating. We are going to give you an honest opinion of your appeal and what we think you should do at this time.
Need help with your claim? Give the VA disability denial lawyers at Woods & Woods a call. There is never a fee for a legal consultation. You only pay Woods & Woods VA disability appeal lawyers if you hire us and we win your appeal. If we do not win your appeal, you pay nothing. Our law firm never asks for money upfront. Our fee is a percentage of back pay and case expenses only if your appeal is successful.
Since 1985, the veterans disability lawyers at Woods & Woods have successfully represented thousands of disabled vets. Our law firm has one mission: to help veterans win their appeals. We are a nationally recognized law firm that can help veterans wherever they live.