If you served our country in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, or the National Guard or Reserves, then you may be entitled to certain benefits from the federal government. This may include healthcare, education, and disability benefits. Suppose you have been diagnosed with a medical condition or a mental health impairment that was either caused or made worse by your military service. In that case, you may be eligible for veterans’ disability benefits.
After filing an application for benefits, you will receive a decision from the VA. You then have several options for filing an appeal. The typical success rate for these appeals ranges from 34 to 38%, with slightly higher numbers for people who have legal representation for the veterans disability appeals process.
At Bross & Frankel, we are committed to helping disabled veterans get the money that they deserve for their service-connected impairments. While we cannot represent vets with their initial application, we can provide you with an overview of your rights – and help you file an appeal of a denial or disability rating. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation with a New Jersey veterans disability benefits lawyer.
The VA Appeals Process
Service members who have been diagnosed with a service-connected disability may file an application for veterans’ disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). After reviewing a disability claim, the VA will either deny your claim – with a finding that your medical or mental health condition is not service-connected – or will approve your claim and issue a disability rating. This is known as a Rating Decision.
A disability rating is a percentage between 0 and 100% that represents the VA’s determination of how disabled you are. This rating is based on the VA’s impairment rating chart. The higher your disability rating, the more benefits you will receive.
When a veteran receives a Rating Decision, they may want to appeal either an outright denial or a disability rating. This can be done through the VA appeals process, typically with the help of a New Jersey veterans disability lawyer. In most cases, this can be done in 1 of 3 ways:
- Supplemental Claim: this step is used when you have additional evidence to support your initial application for benefits. Additional evidence is submitted for a Veterans Law Judge to review.
- Higher-Level Review: this may be an option if you don’t have more relevant evidence to submit, but believe that the initial review had legal errors. A Veterans Law Judge will review the appeal based on evidence already submitted.
- Board Appeal: this may include a direct review based on evidence already submitted, evidence submission if you have additional evidence, or a hearing with a Veterans’ Law Judge. You must select which type of review you want.
You have one year from the date of your Rating Decision to request a supplemental claim, a higher-level review, or a Board Appeal. Depending on your circumstances, it may make more sense to file one type of appeal over another. A New Jersey Veterans disability appeals attorney can help you decide which option is best based on your unique circumstances.
As noted above, this appeals process applies to most veterans’ disability claims. However, if your appeal was filed before February 19, 2019, it will go through what is known as the legacy appeals process. In 2017, the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act (AMA) became law. The AMA applies to all appeals filed on or after February 19, 2019. If you have questions about which system of appeals applies to your case, talk to your lawyer.
The Success Rate for VA Disability Appeals
According to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2022, there were 23,529 decisions issued through the AMA process (i.e., appeals filed on or after February 19, 2019). Of those, 9,152 appeals were approved. This represents a 38.9% success rate for all types of VA disability appeals. An additional 6,870 appeals (or 29.2%) were remanded, which means that the case was sent back to the regional VA office for additional development.
The success rate for VA disability appeals depends in part on the type of appeal filed. For 2022:
- 16,512 direct review appeal decisions were issued. Of those, 5,212 – or 31.5% – were approved. 7,956 appeals (48%) were remanded.
- 10,909 evidence submission decisions were issued. Of those, 3,663 – or 33.5% – were approved. 3,072 (28%) were remanded.
- 24,891 decisions after hearings were issued. 7,286 hearing decisions resulted in an approval, or approximately 29.2%. 5,442 cases were remanded (21.8%).
For hearings, there is a higher success rate (34%) when the matter is heard at the VA’s central office. This is compared to a regional office hearing (26%) and virtual tele-hearings (22%).
Legacy appeals – or those filed before February 19, 2019 – have a lower overall success rate of 34.7%. Veterans who are represented by an attorney in the legacy process have a higher success rate of 42.1%.
It can take a year or longer to get a decision on a veteran’s disability appeal. The VA works on cases in the order in which they are received, so it is often a good idea to file an appeal sooner rather than later. If you have questions about whether you can file a VA disability appeal, reach out to a veterans’ disability lawyer to schedule a free claim review.
Is There Anything that I Can Do to Increase My Chances of a Successful VA Appeal?
One of the best things that you can do to increase the likelihood of a successful veterans disability appeal is to hire an experienced attorney. Your lawyer will go through your paperwork, analyze the reasons for the VA’s unfavorable decision, and advise you of your options. If you decide to move forward with an appeal, they will assist you in gathering supplemental evidence and putting together a strong legal argument.
If you have received a lower disability rating than expected or if your application was denied, we can help. Call Bross & Frankel to talk to a New Jersey veterans disability lawyer.
My Service-Connected Condition Has Worsened. Can I File a Supplemental Claim?
If you receive a disability rating and your service-connected disability has gotten worse, then you should not file a supplemental claim appeal. Instead, you can file a claim for increased disability compensation. Generally, supplemental claims are for cases where you have new and relevant evidence or where you want a review based on a change in the law. There is a separate procedure for situations where your service-connected condition has worsened.
Understanding the ins and outs of the veteran’s disability appeals process can be challenging. If you have questions, reach out to Bross & Frankel to talk to a member of our legal team about your case. All initial claim reviews are free of charge.
Got a Bad VA Decision? Let Us Help You Appeal.
While the VA has made attempts to streamline the system, the process of applying for veterans benefits can still be confusing. This is particularly true when it comes to filing an appeal of an unfavorable decision. There are different benefits – and success rates – for the various types of VA disability appeals.
If you have been diagnosed with a service-connected disability, Bross & Frankel is here for you. We advocate for people with disabilities, including veterans, to help them get the benefits that they are entitled to under the law. To learn more or to schedule a free claim review with a veterans disability attorney, contact our office today at (866) 311-3796 or fill out our online contact form.