Attorney Richard "Rick" Rousseau recently presented at the State Bar Spring Continuing Legal Education (CLE) for the Military and Veterans Law Section. The presentation was catered for those who specialize in Military and Veterans Law issues. It delved into many issues, ranging from survivor benefits and family law cases to PTSD and appealing a VA benefit denial.
Attorneys throughout Texas attended the presentation to learn from the retired colonel and Department of Veterans Affairs certified attorney's expertise.
Below is a very brief sample of what they may have learned.
Denied VA benefits? Consider an appeal. A veteran can qualify for two types of disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): service-connected disability compensation and low-income pension. To qualify, the VA requires an applicant meet a number of factors. These include that the applicant has veteran status and a medical diagnosis.
The VA may deny an initial claim for benefits, but the applicant should remember that this denial is not final. The applicant can appeal the VA's decision.
How does an appeal work? A veteran has one year from the date the decision was mailed to file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) to begin the appeals process. The appeals process begins with the NOD. The veteran will then choose to either pursue a standard appeal with the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) or a Decision Review Office (DRO) appeal with the Regional Office.
What happens during a standard appeal? Once received, the BVA sends a Statement of the Case (SOC). The veteran has 60 days from the mailing date of the SOC to respond. The response is the veteran's opportunity to explain the reasoning for the appeal and can include a hearing.
This process generally takes two to three years to complete.
What about a Decision Review Office appeal? A DRO review involves a review of the entire file by an examiner with at least five years of experience. This form of review can result in a decision without having to go through the appeal process with the BVA.
Generally, if a DRO appeal results in denied benefits the veteran can still seek an appeal with the BVA. However, it is important to note that there are time limits with each step of the process. Veterans can take steps to help better ensure a favorable result. Legal counsel can provide assistance.