Things to Look Out For:

  1. Always review the favorable findings in each Rating Decision Letter. These are binding upon the VA and can be helpful in future arguments for Service Connection.
  2. Also, for claims that you are continuously pursuing, it is wise to review the previous decision letter for the same claims. Look at the language.  See if it is merely a copy and paste.  Within the VA, they call this “Top-Sheeting.”  Basically, it is a signal that the subsequent rating officer failed to do the work and may have copy/pasted the previous letter, tweaked it some and sent out the same denials.  It is really frustrating, and not right.
  3. Once you get a decision letter denying your claims, you have three options and each have respective timelines. Below are a list of options to choose from.  They are organized form by listing them in the quickest route to a decision letter (as we all know, the VA will take their time):

Higher Level Review (VA Form 0996)

  • This form is used to “look backwards” and determine where the VA made an error of law and/or fact. If the VA agrees with this argument, then the claim may be sent back for further development.  By far, this avenue is the quickest.  However, be cautious, at this juncture you cannot add any new evidence.  You are only allowed to make argument of the closed record—closed form the date of the decision letter you reference in the VA Form 0996.

Supplemental Claim (VA Form 0995):

  • This avenue is used when your VA file is incomplete in some aspect and you are seeking to add new evidence. That evidence can be in the form of medical records, lay statements (38 CFR 3.159(a)(2)), Medical opinions (38 CFR 3.159(a)(1)), or any other evidence that may help the claim.  This avenue typically takes longer.  NOTE: When you receive a decision letter following the submission of the VA Form 0995, look to see if the VA properly analyzed the evidence as “New and Relevant.”  Very often, even when the evidence is new and relevant, the VA will say it is not.

Board of Veterans Appeals (VA Form 10182):

  • By far the longest route to take. In some cases Veterans are waiting over THREE (3) YEARS to be heard by an administrative law judge. It is very frustrating.  So, if you are experiencing frustration, please seek a good advocate that can provide insight. Additionally, please note that there are exceptions that can bump your case to the front of the line.  Please reach out to us to discuss these exceptions should you believe they apply to your case.

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