What VA Disability Decisions Can Be Appealed?
Today’s blog comes to us from Columbia, South Carolina law firm Bluestein Attorneys. The attorneys at Bluestein have received accolades for their dedication to representing their clients in the areas of VA Disability, Workers’ Compensation, Personal Injury, Business Litigation, and more.
In our time spent representing veterans and servicemembers filing VA Disability claims, we’ve discovered that an initial denial of disability compensation from the VA doesn’t always mean your fight to receive the benefits you’re entitled to due to your service is over.
If your VA Disability claim has been unfairly denied, or you believe you should have received a higher disability rating, you do have the right to appeal the VA’s decision.
In many cases, we’ve been able to uncover certain errors or procedural mistakes made by the VA that resulted in the initial claims denial or in an injured veteran receiving a lower rating.
If Veterans Affairs made a mistake in denying your VA Disability claim, your grounds for appeal becomes much stronger.
Here are the top 5 most common mistakes made by Veterans Affairs on VA Disability Claims:
- Veterans Affairs Did Not Assist in Recovering Your Records
The VA is required by law to help servicemembers and veterans to obtain records that support their VA Disability benefits claims. They may ask you to identify which records you require that are relevant to your claim, but once those records are identified, the VA has a legal duty to acquire those records for you.
If you provided detailed information about when and where you were treated and believe that the VA could have reasonably located your records and did not assist you, this error in judgment can be used as part of your VA Disability claims appeal.
- The VA Did Not Perform a Medical Examination
The VA is often required to perform a thorough medical examination as part of deciding whether an injury or disability is service-connected. This comes up most often when there isn’t sufficient evidence one way or another in your existing medical file about your disabling injury.
This examination is designed to provide evidence that you have a current disability, that you experienced an in-service event or injury, and that the event or injury directly caused or might have caused your disability.
If the VA declared you did not have sufficient evidence to prove your claim without performing a medical examination, you should appeal and push for a thorough exam.
- The VA Medical Exam Was Inadequate or Lacking Required Information
Even if the VA does perform a medical examination, it’s important to ascertain whether it met all the requirements to count as adequate. The VA physician or medical provider must:
- Be knowledgeable about the specific type of disability being evaluated
- Be able to explain to the disabled veteran and the VA in detail how they came to their decision on whether or not a disability was service-connected
- Be able to explain whether or not this linkage exists in the individual veteran’s case
If the medical provider at the VA was unable to explain to you how or why they came to the conclusion that your disability was not service-connected or did not seem to know much about or understand the type of disability you were being evaluated for, you may have grounds for an appeal and should immediately request a second evaluation by a different medical provider.
- The VA Never Notified You of Required Evidence in the First Place
Veterans Affairs is required to tell you exactly what evidence is necessary to prove your VA Disability claim. You should receive a notice that specifies what evidence you are responsible for submitting and what evidence the VA will gather on your behalf. This notification became a requirement for all claims pending on or filed after November 9, 2000.
If you were denied VA Disability benefits but never received the required notification as to what evidence you needed to provide and can prove that this was harmful to your case, this can be used as a basis for an appeal.
In order to successfully appeal based on a lack of notification of required evidence, you’ll need to be able to show that evidence helpful to your claim existed, and you would have provided it if you had known.
- The BVA’s Explanation of Decision Was Inadequate
Veterans who appeal their denial of VA Disability benefits to the Board of Veterans Appeals should know that the BVA is required to include a discussion of relevant facts, law, and how they came to their decide on your case within the paperwork that includes their decision on your claim.
With an attorney or legal representative’s help, you should be able to check over the Board of Veterans Appeals’ decision and note whether or not medical or lay evidence that you provided was properly addressed.
If the explanation proves to be inadequate, you may have grounds for a strong appeal.
Filing for VA Disability Benefits? Bluestein Attorneys is Here to Help.
At Bluestein Attorneys, our SC Veterans Advocates team has years of experience in representing injured or disabled servicemembers looking to file or appeal VA Disability claims. Our VA Disability team is made up of veterans themselves, who understand the unique nature of the VA and the pressures and stress of military life.
Whether you’re seeking to file an initial VA Disability claim, your VA Disability claim was denied, or you need help navigating the complexities of the VA Disability system, we’d be happy to sit down with you and help you decide what next step is best for you.
Give us a call at (877) 524-4675 or contact us online at any time to request your FREE consultation.