Thinking about filing a VA Disability rating appeal? Before you do, learn about your legal rights as a veteran with disabilities. This page gives tips, tricks, and good legal advice to veterans looking at filing a VA Disability rating appeal.
Veterans are regularly denied and they often receive low-ratings. Don’t be alarmed by your initial Rating Decision, that decision is not final. After a denial or low-rating, you can appeal. If you have questions after reading the information below, give us a call. It’s always free to discuss your appeal with our law firm. For help, just fill out the online contact form.
1. You have a limited amount of time to file your VA Disability rating appeal.
You have one year to file your VA Disability rating appeal from the date on your VA Rating Decision letter. If you have waited longer than one year to file your VA Disability rating appeal, you can submit a new application and start a new claim. Just remember, when applying for VA Benefits, list all your potential service-connected conditions.
When it is time to file your VA Disability rating appeal, don’t delay. The VA Disability system is already slow. Your delay will continually set back your claim.
Remember, the first thing you need to file for your VA Disability rating appeal is a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). This is a pretty generic statement saying you wish to begin a VA Disability rating appeal. You don’t have to include much legal theory on this document. Start your VA Disability rating appeal by filing the NOD and then begin gathering your evidence.
2. Don’t submit your VA Disability rating appeal with the same evidence.
While the VA does make many mistakes in adjudicating claims, your denial or low-rating may have been due to the evidence you provided. If you don’t present sound evidence, you may expect a denial or low-rating from the VA.
If your evidence was the reason for your denial or low-rating, do not submit the same evidence when you file your VA Disability rating appeal. Our VA Disability lawyers highly suggest you obtain new and stronger evidence for your VA Disability rating appeal.
Remember, VA Disability law is just like any other area of law. You need sound evidence to win. If you have a physical or mental condition, get a diagnosis and seek treatment. You will need medical documentation of your disabilities to win your claim.
Our VA Disability lawyers often use these sources to obtain evidence when filing a VA Disability rating appeal:
- Doctors Outside the VA: You can submit medical reports from doctors outside the VA. For some reason, many veterans believe they can only submit evidence from VA doctors – that is not true. You can use medical reports from your private doctors. Our VA Disability lawyers often use medical reports from doctors outside the VA. We find that this really helps bolster clients’ claims.
- Medical Experts: You can use a wide array of medical experts for your VA Disability rating appeal. If you have cancer, you may want to submit reports from your oncologist. If you have back pain, you can submit reports from your back surgeon or even chiropractor.
- Psychologists: If you are appealing for mental conditions, reports from psychologists can be very helpful. For example, our VA Disability lawyers often have clients with PTSD work with a psychologist. They can write reports detailing how your mental conditions are related to your time in the service.
- Vocational Experts: They can write reports detailing why you are unable to work from your service-connected disabilities. For example, our VA Disability lawyers use Vocational Experts regularly for TDIU benefits claims. The reports will detail how your service-connected disabilities are preventing you from working.
- Buddy Statements: These statements are particularly helpful for veterans with missing records. You can read all about Buddy Statements in section 5 of this webpage. This is an underused VA Disability rating appeal trick.
3. Think about your VA Disability rating appeal like a lawyer.
Before you file a VA Disability rating appeal, dissect your claim like a VA Disability compensation lawyer would. Don’t just submit your VA Disability rating appeal mindlessly without a legal strategy.
First, think about your claim – are you filing a claim because you were denied service-connection or were you rated too low? File your VA Disability rating appeal to execute the legal strategy you are going to follow. If you were denied service-connection, you are going to want to show the VA why your disability is related to your service. If you were rated too low, you are going to want to show the VA how your disabilities are worse than your rating.
4. Don’t forget about your secondary service-connected conditions.
Do not forget to include all your secondary service-connected disabilities. The best way to get your VA Disability benefits rating up is to interweave all your medical conditions.
For example, suppose you are a veteran with service-connected ischemic heart disease, any condition that is from your heart disease may also be considered service-connected. If you take medicine for your heart disease, the side effects may be considered service-connected.
Veterans who are claiming PTSD may also want to consider their secondary service-connected mental conditions. If you have anxiety or depression because of your PTSD, they may also be considered service-connected. Stress from PTSD may also be related to heart conditions and other physical disorders.
Learn More: Figure out your monthly disability payment with our VA Disability Rating Calculator
5. Buddy statements can help your VA Disability rating appeal.
Was your claim denied because of missing records or lost documents? Do you have missing service records and medical documents that you need to prove your VA Disability claim? You are not alone. The VA has lost lots of service records and medical documents. Many veterans even had their records destroyed in a 1973 fire in St. Louis.
Veterans can use VA Disability Buddy Statements when filing a VA Disability rating appeal. These are simply letters from fellow service-members, family members, and friends. They can help prove you have service-connected conditions, where you were stationed, or even that a veteran was involved in an enemy attack. Buddy Statements can be used for many different reasons.
For example, suppose an Iraq War veteran with PTSD can’t prove he was in an IED roadside bomb attack – either a record was never or it was lost. That veteran can have fellow service-members who were present write about the event. This can help prove the disabled veteran was involved in a PTSD stressor event.
6. VA Disability law is very favorable towards veterans.
Often, veterans are denied and rated too low not because of the law, but because of the way the VA makes mistakes on claims. VA Disability law will generally be in the veteran’s favor. Believe it or not, VA Disability law is extremely favorable towards veterans. Veterans only have to prove their conditions are “as likely as not” from their military service.
What does “as likely as not” mean for veterans? Every area of law has a legal standard that one side must prove. For example, criminal prosecutors must prove that murder defendants committed the crime under the legal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” That is a very tough legal standard to prove. That means a criminal prosecutor must prove the defendant committed the crime with a 99.99% certainty.
Think about the O.J Simpson trial for a minute. We all thought he was guilty. But, there was some doubt over this guilt. Because of this doubt, the prosecutors could not prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that he committed the murder. Therefore, Mr. Simpson was found not guilty of murder.
VA Disability law is very different. Remember, the legal standard for you to prove your disabilities is “as likely as not” which is equal to or greater than 50%. That means you only have to prove your disabilities are as likely related to service as they are not.
For example, every veteran that had boots on the ground in Vietnam is presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange. If a Vietnam veteran develops diabetes decades after service, it is presumed his conditions came from Agent Orange exposure. It does not matter if that veteran did not take care of themselves and smoked, ate a poor diet, or never exercised – it is as likely as not his diabetes came from Agent Orange as his personal lifestyle choices.
7. You are going to need patience during your VA Disability rating appeal.
Remember, your VA Disability rating appeal is not going to be decided overnight. The VA is slow to process claims. The veterans disability benefits timeline is long. It is not uncommon for a VA Disability rating appeal to take over three years.
If you are out of money today and need help immediately, do not expect it in the form of VA Disability benefits. The VA will expedite some VA disability claims for various hardships, but that does not mean you are going to move to the front of the VA Disability rating appeal line. Expediting your claim only means it moves faster than the average claim.
Here is what some veterans do for help until their VA Disability rating appeal is approved:
- Use your support system: If you have family and friends who are willing to help, now would be the time to accept assistance. Many veterans rely on the help of family and friends while waiting for their VA Disability rating appeal to be finalized.
- Reach out to veterans organizations: If you need shelter, food, monetary assistance, you can reach out to local veterans organizations. Local veterans organizations can help get you assistance until your VA Disability rating appeal is approved.
- Prepare for the long-haul fight: If you have some savings, try to penny-pinch. Be fiscally responsible. If you are bad with money, you can always have someone you know help you budget your remaining money.
- Continue treating with your doctors: Remember, VA Disability benefits will give you money but they won’t make your mental and physical conditions better. Keep treating with your doctors and focus on your health. Don’t let the stress from filing a VA Disability rating appeal consume your life.
8. You may be entitled to more benefits than you know about.
Veterans often don’t know there are more than just compensation benefits available. This is why we can’t stress how important is it to talk with a veterans disability benefits lawyer. Too many veterans call our office after they are too far in their VA Disability rating appeal. We can still help them, but we often find they have made a mess of their own claim.
Here are some benefits you may not have known about:
- Dependent Children: If your VA Disability is approved, you can receive extra monthly compensation for your dependent children.
- Dependent Parents: If you have dependent parents and your claim is successful, you may receive extra monthly compensation.
- Aid and Attendance Benefits: If you need assistance because of your service-connected disabilities, there may be A&A benefits available.
- DIC Benefits for Widows: If your disabilities are approved and you die from one of those service-connected disabilities, your spouse may then be eligible for DIC benefits.
- VA Disability Back Pay: If your VA Disability rating appeal is successful, you may receive a lump sum check from the VA. This money will go back to your effective date. It is the money you should have been receiving if your claim had been approved in your Rating Decision.
9. Can’t work? Consider appealing for Individual Unemployability.
Many veterans are unaware that Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits even exist. TDIU benefits are designed for veterans that cannot work because of their service-connected disabilities. Veterans can receive both TDIU benefits and Social Security Disability benefits at the same time.
TDIU benefits pay the same as a 100 percent VA Disability rating. However, you do not need to obtain a 100% rating. TDIU benefits are decided based upon your employability, not just the severity and number of your service-connected impairments.
Our Individual Unemployability lawyers want you to know that you can also obtain TDIU benefits if you work, but have severe accommodations. That means you are allowed to miss work all the time for your service-connected conditions. Other accommodations are things like not being able to sit long, you can’t stand long, have trouble dealing with customers, you show up late all the time, you don’t show up to work at all, and your current workplace allows this. But to prove accommodations, you must show the normal workplace would not allow this. Many of these underemployed veterans work for family members or friends who allow them extreme accommodations.
This video explains Individual Unemployability benefits:
10. You can get help with your VA Disability rating appeal.
Did you know you only pay your veterans benefits lawyers at Woods & Woods if your VA Disability rating appeal is successful? It’s true. However, if your VA Disability rating appeal is not successful, you don’t owe us a penny.
Since 1985, Woods & Woods has successfully represented thousands of disabled veterans. Our VA benefits appeal lawyers are experienced and know how the VA system works. Our mission is to win your VA Disability rating appeal.
The VA Disability denial lawyers at Woods & Woods offer free legal consultations. You can call us and discuss your claim – it won’t cost you anything. We will gladly answer all your questions and make sure you understand your rights. There is no obligation to hire Woods & Woods just for talking to us.