Filing a VA claim involves lots of paperwork and a lot of waiting. Often, when a response is finally received, many veterans find that they have been told they will receive less help than they were hoping for, than they feel they deserve. The next step, if you find yourself in this situation, is to appeal your claim.
First: Acquire a copy of the physical exam you took to enter your first claim. You can get this from the VA facility where you had the physical performed. If you have troubles getting this report, the Freedom of Information Office is the next best place to go for assistance.
Second: Review your report, confirming that every ailment is noted in the report. If anything was left out, make a note of it.
Third: At your regional VA Office, submit a Notice of Disagreement; a written letter stating that you are not content with the decision made on your claim. State that you would like your case to be reviewed by a Decision Review Officer. This person will look over your claim and arrange a hearing for further investigation if he/she feels it is warranted.
Next: Find the “snail-mail” contact information for your regional VA Office. The VA website is a good place to look for this. Then, within one year of receiving the results of your first claim, send your VA Office your Notice of Disagreement. In response, the VA should return to you a Statement of the Case. This document tells you what information was used to conclude the original response to your claim.
Next: If, after reading their reasoning, you are still not content with the claim response, file a VA Form 9 with your regional VA Office. One might be included with the Statement of the Case, if not, you can obtain one either from the Office itself or online at the VA’s website. Fill out this form fully, including the issues that you believe were missed that are pertinent to why you deserve further benefits. Also include the results you desire from your case. Be sure to return this form within sixty days.
Next: You should now receive notification of an appearance date with the Court of Veterans Appeals.
Next: Prepare for your appearance. Be ready to present information that you believe is important to your case, and has been overlooked or was missed previously. Afterwards, you will receive a letter telling you of the decision made after the court date.
Last: If these results do not meet with your satisfaction, do not lose heart, there is still something you can do. The next step is to file an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. It is also helpful to contact your VA Office, and ask for help from Veterans Services to prepare for your appeal. Veterans Services should help you with the forms and information you might need to file.
Photo thanks to Andres Rueda under creative common license on Flickr.