How Does a Re-Opened Disability Claim Work?
Any claim that has been denied and become final is allowed to be re-opened. Regardless of what kind of denial, what kind of claim, or what kind of appeal process the claim has gone
In this article, you can learn about:
You Can’t Just Re-Open a Claim
When you file to re-open your disability claim, you must have new and material evidence to show to the BVA. Even if you have nineteen doctors all say the same thing, that would not count as new evidence. They can talk about the same problem, but they need new evidence or new proof of a service-connection.
Your case must also be finalized. If you are still in the VA disability appeal period, you don’t need to re-open your claim. You would reopen a VA disability claim if it has been years since your claim has been denied. If you are a surviving spouse or dependent, you can also re-open a claim.
They Denied My VA Disability Claim, Until I Showed Them This…
If you can show new and material evidence that pertains to any part of your claim that was previously denied, you can re-open your claim. There is one-year deadline to appeal a claim, but there is no time frame to re-open a claim. That means that if you gave up your claim and your appeal years ago, you don’t have to lose hope.
If you show the VA new and material evidence that would help just one part of your claim, it can be accepted by the BVA to be re-opened and reviewed. If you applied for 30% disability in your right leg, 20% in your left leg, and 10% PTSD, you only have to have new and material evidence for one of those things. If you have some new evidence about the PTSD claim, the VA is required to reconsider your entire claim. They are also not allowed to consider the past reasons for your denial. This is what makes a re-opened claim so powerful.
What Are Examples of New and Material Evidence?
Some types of new and material evidence can be:
- A document you lost in your attic that you didn’t send in previously.
- A picture you mailed home to your mom that shows evidence to service-connect your injury.
- If you have a reunion or run into an old friend that served with you, their Buddy Statement can better explain the events or the places.
- A doctor’s opinion that your disability is service-connected that is not a duplicate explanation of what you already submitted.
- A review of your medical records that applies to findings from new medical research.
- Declassified information that can prove that you were a Blue Water Vietnam Veteran and therefore exposed to Agent Orange.
- Changes to VA law that now include you or your condition as a presumptive service connection that didn’t exist during your original claim.
How To Find New and Material Evidence and Re-Open Your VA Claim
One of the sources for new and material evidence can be you. If you have a doctor or other medical professional that is familiar with VA Disability Law, they may be able to show how your medical condition is service-connected. If you have back pain mentioned in your C-file and your doctor can show that your back pain is service connected, that can be considered new evidence as long as it doesn’t repeat what you already submitted. The doctor that writes this doesn’t have to have greater authority than previous doctors’ reports. If the information is new, the VA has to accept that as new evidence.
The VA is supposed to maximize the benefits they give to the greatest benefit of the veteran. This means that they are required to consider every single thing you list as a service-connected or secondary-connected condition.
If you run into an old war buddy and over the course of the night get to telling stories, ask him to write up a statement about your knee injury. If an eye-witness that was there remembers and documents an injury you sustained or a painful condition that affected you, that can count as new and material evidence.
Ask your VA disability lawyer to look through your file. If you filed on your own or even if you are a widow that got help from a VSO, have an experienced VA lawyer look at your case. There are new laws that can affect old claims as recent as February of 2019. This free review increases your chances of getting the full VA disability compensation that you deserve.
What Happens to my Effective Date if I Re-Open a Claim
Most of the time, your effective date doesn’t go back to your original effective date when you re-open a claim. Sometimes the VA sets it at the point that you filed to re-open. Sometimes the VA has set it back to when the law changed that created the new and material evidence to change your decision. Whether it is the date of the claim or the date of the law change, getting benefits
Another strategy is to focus on getting your benefits claims approved, and then go back and work on changing your effective date. This is a matter of choosing your battles.
How Does a Re-Opened Claim Affect CUE?
CUE stands for Clear and Unmistakable Error. Since it is so hard to get a case before a VA judge, you want to have as good a case as possible. When looking over the new and material evidence for your re-opened VA claim, you want to look for errors in past judgments. An error in the review of a past judgment can open the door to move your effective date back years. It can also change the types of VA benefits for which you are eligible. Finding a hand-written note from a doctor during the Korean war could be the difference between an approval or a denial of benefits.
Which VA Form Do I Use to Re-Open my Claim?
There isn’t a form that is specific to re-opening VA Disability claims, but it is the standard Form 21-526EZ. On that form, you’ll see the other needed forms that may pertain to your case. They can all be downloaded directly from https://www.va.gov/vaforms/
Make sure you include everything you can with that
The judge can’t give any weight to the fact that your claim was denied before. Sometimes new evidence only needs to trigger a C&P exam or the VA’s DTA (Duty To Assist). Once those are put into progress, your entire claim will receive a new look and a new decision.
Where Were You During Active Duty?
New evidence could be a news or DoD record of some action that happened nearby where you were at the time. If you can prove your general location in relation to the DoD record, you can be connected to that event. You’ll want to state that clearly on your SOC (Statement of the Case) so that the judge knows why you didn’t have this evidence the first time you applied for VA disability benefits.
New evidence could be from declassified material. If you were part of a group that is has a presumed illness, but it wasn’t until after you were denied that the VA agreed that you are in that group, you can re-open your claim with that new evidence. You want to make sure you can show that if the previous judge had this new and material evidence, he or she would have awarded your disability during the first application process.
Once You’re In, Get All of the Help From the VA You Can Get
By law, the VA is supposed to maximize the benefits they give to the greatest benefit of the veteran. This means that they are required to consider every single thing you list as a service-connected or secondary-connected condition. For many veterans, a re-opened claim with new evidence is their last chance to get recompense from what they sacrificed during active duty.
You should know for certain that every aspect of your case, every inch of your 600 page C-file, was reviewed for evidence. We may call and interview family and friends to get a statement about how you couldn’t play basketball anymore when you came home from your active duty. We might assemble your medical history and call you back with more questions about medicines, procedures, or diagnoses that you received in the private sector.
Either way, if you believe that you have new evidence that would have helped your denied VA disability benefits claim, fill out the form below or call us at (866)232-5777 today for a free consultation. We’ll interview you, review your case, and give you a plan within just a few weeks. You have nothing to lose but the uncertainty that you tried everything you could.