February 28, 2017
Applying for benefits for an illness or injury that happened as a result of a person’s service in the military is not as straightforward as one may expect. The process is sometimes complicated by backlogs in processing claims. Denials are not uncommon even when the veteran clearly qualifies for benefits, and the right result is only reached through an appeal of the initial denial. There are two options when it comes to choosing where to start the appeal. Veterans may appeal a denial of benefits, or a disability rating if the veteran feels the rating of their disability was inaccurate.
In appealing a disability rating or a decision that a veteran is ineligible for benefits, the veteran may choose to appeal directly to the VA Board of Veterans Appeals, or may choose to have the decision reviewed by a Decision Review Officer (DRO). A DRO is a senior technical expert within the VA who is responsible for holding post-decisional hearings and processing appeals. When a DRO reviews the denial, they may make a decision based on the information that was presented, or they may ask for additional information or even meet with the veteran making the appeal and his or her representative. The DRO reviews the information received anew, without taking into consideration the reasoning for the earlier decision. An appeal using DRO does not automatically mean that the applicant will get all the benefits that were initially denied. This appeal may result in a full reversal, or a partial reversal, or no reversal at all.
Going through a DRO is sometimes seen as delaying the appeal before the Board of Veterans Appeals. Some veterans may choose to go directly to the Board of Veterans Appeals, and so see the process of first going through a DRO as a waste of time. DRO decisions are also appealable to the Board of Veterans Appeals, so all appeals may end up with the board. However, because there is a chance that the DRO may overturn an earlier denial and award benefits, there is no harm is attempting this as a first step. It may end up being a faster process depending on the circumstances of the case.
If the appeal goes before the Board, the veteran may choose to request a hearing in addition to the information submitted for review. These hearing are relatively informal, and may be in person or through teleconference. The judges may ask the veteran questions to clarify some things, but the veteran is essentially there to provide testimony that he thinks would benefit his case. If the Board of Veterans Appeals denies the appeal, the veteran may seek a review of the denial to the United States Court of Appeals for Veteran Claims.
Contact An Experienced Veterans Disability Attorney
If you are a veteran with an injury or illness connected to your military service, you and your family members may be eligible for disability benefits from the VA. To set up a free consultation to discuss the application and appeals process for VA benefits, and how an experienced disability benefits attorney can help you, contact the Rochester New York Veterans Disability Law Offices of Kenneth Hiller, PLLC today.