On average, VA claim appeals are backlogged for approximately three years. What does that mean? For example, if a Veteran files an appeal after the VA makes a rating decision, the average wait time is around three years until the appeal is resolved. The long VA appeal time can be very discouraging. However, the Veteran can do a lot of things to help support and improve their VA appeal while waiting for a new decision on the appeal.
The most important thing that a Veteran can do to assist their VA disability claim is to continue with medical treatment and care. First, the Veteran needs to continue medical care for their own health. Second, continued medical care will help to document the need for medical treatment and the disability. Generally, continued medical care will produce even more medical records to help support and document a VA claim. A Veteran needs to continue to have their treatment recorded to help establish disabilities for the appeal.
Continuing treatment creates a paper trail that helps to document disabilities that are on appeal. VA examiners observe a Veteran at an appointment from the moment they arrive at an appointment until they depart. What is the first thing someone is asked at an appointment? How are you doing and how are you feeling? It is essential for a Veteran not to minimize symptoms or just respond that they feel fine because that is what will be entered on medical records. The Veteran needs to explain how they have been feeling. For example, describe things like pain, restricted movements, difficulty sleeping, etc. It is imperative for the VA to document the severity of the Veterans disabilities in the Veteran’s medical records. The Veteran needs to explain how they have been feeling, particularly regarding their disabilities.
How does a Veteran remember all the symptoms they have been dealing with? One way a Veteran can help with their own claim is to keep a log of their disabilities. A log will help to document the severity of disabilities. For example, for a Veteran that is experiencing headaches or migraines, it is crucial to document how many days a week they experience the migraines, how long the migraines last, what was required for the migraine to decrease (medicine, rest, etc.), and how much work was missed due to the migraine. Another example is when a Veteran has mental health issues. The Veteran should log the symptoms and how those symptoms affect their daily life. The Veteran should log when they are unable to work or must leave work early due to disabilities. Keeping a log is easy. The Veteran can simply use a piece of paper or a notebook. There are also many free apps that can be downloaded to track things like headaches. The bottom line is to track these disabilities and then to make sure to provide them to the VA as substantiation of disability.
If you need assistance in appealing a VA service-connected disability claim or the VA has denied your VA claim, you are entitled to an attorney to assist you. Attorney Colonel (Retired) Rick Rousseau is accredited by the VA to provide representation services to claimants before the VA. Call 254-699-9999; 409-515-6176; or email us.