Back in February of 2019, February 19th to be exact, the Veterans Administration changed its appeals process for VA Disability claims. At that time they transitioned from what is now lovingly called the “legacy appeals process” to the “modernized decision review process.” In this blog series, we are reviewing the different appeals options you have under each of these systems and how they differ from each other. We will also explain the benefits and draw backs of each appeal option. However, this will be a bit more difficult because benefits and draw backs can be very specific to the individual claim and the desires of the veteran or family making the claim. If you have any questions about your rights, the disability attorneys at Gold, Khourey & Turak can help.
If you recall last month, we discussed the basics of proving your VA disability benefits claim. At a minimum you would need to prove that your condition or conditions were service related (i.e. caused by or somehow exacerbated by your military service) and that they were in fact, to some extent, disabling. We also discussed the possibility of four (4) different appeals options a veteran has if they receive a denial. Those being: 1) continuing under the legacy appeals process, 2) supplemental claims, 3) higher-level review, and 4) board of appeals hearing. Lastly, we discussed the legacy appeals process and that the remaining three options fall under the modernized decision review process. In this blog, we will focus on the often first used appeal option: supplemental claims.
While there is not a required disability appeals path when deciding how to pursue your Veterans Administration benefits claim, your first stop is generally to file a supplemental claim. This is for a few reasons, the simplest of which is that if you would choose a “more advanced” disability appeal as your first option, such as requesting a hearing before the board of appeals, you lose the opportunity to take advantage of the supplemental claims appeal and the benefits it could provide to your quest for VA disability benefits. However, arguably the most important fact about the supplemental claim is that if you choose to submit a supplemental claim, the remaining two appeal types are still available to you if you receive a second denial! These are the higher-level review and the board of appeals hearing, which I will write about in blogs in the near future. If you have been denied and have questions about an appeal, the social security lawyers at GKT can help you.
As with many things related to the law, the truth behind an explanation can be far more complicated than it sounds. But at its essence, the review the VA does when you file a supplemental claim is basically the same as when it reviews your initial application for VA disability benefits. Again, there are some important differences, but for all practical effects, the VA disability review process is like the VA reviewing a new disability claim. This is because the supplemental claim’s additional benefit is the ability for claimants to introduce new medical evidence regarding their disabling condition(s). The ability to submit new evidence is important because, otherwise, whoever examines your disability appeal would be limited to what your initial claim provided. With the supplemental claim, claimants have the opportunity to provide the VA with additional evidence that may have been left out of your initial claim. This may include new medical developments and records that could help your claim for disability benefits, or simply existing records that did not make it into your file for any reason. Therefore, the claimant can basically look like a new person filing a new disability claim for consideration by the VA. Thus, why the supplemental claim is often treated very similar to an initial disability application. In some instances, there may be no benefit to submitting additional records, in which case a claimant would not want to use the supplemental claims process. An experienced disability attorney, like those at GKT, can help you determine the best appeal option for you.
For a supplemental claim you must file an appeal either online, in person with your local or regional VA office, or by mailing or faxing your claim to the VA processing center. However, I would remind you that currently VA local and regional offices are closed to many in-person activities due to COVID restrictions, including initial applications. You must also provide the VA with any new or supplemental information, including any new medical evidence that can be used to support your disability claim. Although the VA will attempt to obtain this information for you, it is not their duty to do so. If they are unable to or otherwise do not obtain new information or medical records, it ultimately falls to you to provide that information. Therefore, it is recommended that you obtain the new information and submit it to the VA on your own. Additionally, you should anticipate that the VA may send you for further examination or ask additional information of you. It’s true that you do not have to comply with the VA’s request and it’s possible you could obtain an approval without adhering to their requests. However, not complying with their requests could negatively impact your disability claim. If you have any questions, you should contact the disability attorneys at GKT to help guide you through the appeals process.
The decision regarding what type of appeal is best for your disability claim is enough in itself. However, that decision is only the beginning. You then still have plenty of work in order to properly pursue your claim for VA disability benefits. Under the supplemental claim, you still have the responsibility to provide new and relevant medical information, track what records the VA has obtained, obtain and submit any additional medical records the VA might miss, and cooperate with the VA in processing your appealed claim. All of this can be too much for many veterans as they seek to obtain help due to their disabilities.
Gold, Khourey & Turak is a local
Moundsville disability law firm dedicated to helping veterans obtain the VA
disability benefits due to them. For
more than 40 years, GKT has helped thousands of people with their disability
claims from Steubenville to St. Clairsville to Woodfield in Ohio and Weirton to
Wheeling to New Martinsville in West Virginia.
The GKT disability attorneys understand the intricacies of VA appeals
and our disability lawyers know what it takes to win you the benefits you
deserve. If you or someone you know is
seeking VA disability benefits, don’t treat it as a solo mission. Contact Gold, Khourey & Turak today to
get a team in your corner and obtain the benefits you deserve. We can be reached at (304) 845-9750, or live
chat with us 24/7 at GKT.com. Our
consultations are free, and there’s no fee until we win disability benefits for
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