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Taking another look at the VA Disability Timeline

For many Veterans, getting your VA disability compensation can seem overwhelming. Through my experience, most individuals aren’t aware if the timeline and thisphotos 4 018 can cause frustration. Today, I want to spend a few moments to explain what you should expect when you’re pursuing a VA disability claim.

Before we begin, please note that there are several factors that determine the length of a claim. Your location, amount of claims, and evidence can greatly impact the length of time a claim takes to process. This video is simply meant to be a general guide.

The first thing you have to do is file for VA disability compensation. The initial application is called a VA Form 21-526. On average, it takes the VA 8-12 months to respond to your initial application. If you’re granted your benefits, and completely satisfied with the decision, then you’re all done…and pretty lucky because most claims are denied the first time.

If your initial application for benefits is denied, you have one year from the date on the Rating Decision to file an appeal. This appeal is referred to as a notice of disagreement, or a NOD. Once the NOD is filed, the VA will take another 8-12 months, sometimes longer to make a decision. Here is something that a lot of people won’t tell you; DON”T PUT OFF FILING THE NOD! Just because you have 12 months to file it doesn’t mean you should wait that long. If you do wait 12 months, and then it takes the VA another 12 months to make a decision, you’re in for 24 months instead of 12. My best advice is to gather whatever additional evidence you may need, and respond to the decision as quickly as possible. You can save 12 months by being proactive about your claim.

Like I said before, it generally takes 12 months for the VA to get back to you on a decision from the NOD. This next decision is called a Statement of the Case, or SOC. At this point, you have three options for responding. You can choose to schedule a Decision Review Officer Hearing, which is commonly called a DRO hearing, or you can choose to request a Board of Veterans Appeals, or you can choose to do both. Our firm traditionally does both.

At this time, you can request the DRO hearing, and file a Substantive Appeal; it’s referred to as a VA-9 or VA form 9. Each of these will take 8-12 months to process.

If you’re denied at the BVA, or if your claim is remanded, you will also be looking at another 12 month wait.

If you’d like to know more about VA disability, or if you’d like to speak to discuss your case, call us today for a free consultation. Our toll free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you’d rather be contacted by one of our claim specialists, fill out this form now.

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5 Real Issues All Veterans Need to Know About the VA Disability Timeline

When you have been involved in VA disability for as long as I have, your start to hear the same questions repeated consistently. The most common question we get from new clients involves the Jason Watkins 066timeline. “How long will my VA Disability claim take?” I don’t blame Vets for asking this question. Most people filing for VA disability aren’t having a great time in life, and they need their compensation to help alleviate some of the stress of working with a disability. Honestly, in almost every instance, the answer to “how long will my claim take,” is answered with the following response: “a long time.”

Veterans are frustrated with this process, and they have every right to be upset. I talk to dozens of Veterans every week. Most of us who have never served will never experience anything close to what a majority of the Vets I talk to have described to me. One would think these people wouldn’t have to wait two to four years for their final decisions. But, our country is focused on other things right now, and fixing the VA is only a talking point. Since I am not wealthy enough to run for public office, I will instead share my knowledge about the VA disability timeline. These are 5 actual issues all Veterans should know about the timeline.

  1. It’s not improving. Our government is doing a good job of spinning the numbers pertaining to the VA Disability backlog. The VA states that the backlog is being reduced. Honestly, the way they present that information makes me want to believe it’s true too. However, as I reported back in November of 2015, the backlog reduction only pertains to new applications, not the claims that are on appeal. So yes, they may have reduced initial backlog, but the appeals process still takes just as long. If there is one thing I want a Veteran to take away from this list, it’s the appeals process, and the disability process as a whole, is not going to be quick.
  2. Active Duty Military Personnel approaching discharge have an advantage. There is actually a program in place for active members called Benefits Delivery at Discharge. This is often referred to as BDD. You have to apply between 60 and 180 days before your discharge date. The VA expedites these claims and BDD participants are supposed to receive their decision within 60 days of applying. However, the VA does not always meet those deadlines. This plan is far superior to waiting until you receive your discharge. If you wait until discharge, you will have to wait 8-12 months before a decision is made.
  3. Your location matters. As you may already be aware, each state has its own VA Regional Office. The Regional Office houses the individuals who work on all of the disability claims for the state. Fancy states like Texas have more than one regional office. The Regional Offices process all claims and they decide who gets benefits and who doesn’t. It’s also the place in which hearings are held. So, when our attorneys venture to a regional office to represent a Veteran, it’s reminiscent of the scene in “The Hunger Games” where Katniss breaks into the capital. However, President Snow is a saint compared to the pure evil that exists in the VA. Nerdy references aside, your location makes a huge difference in your case. There are a lot of factors that determine why a state has more Veterans than others. Generally speaking, if you are a Veteran who lives in the North East, or the West (excluding California,) you’re going to have a shorter wait than Veterans who live in the south or the Mid-West. Because of our firms experience with VA Disability, and the fact that we do represent Veterans in all 50 states, we know which Regional Offices have the worst backlog. I don’t really want to bash any office because there are great people working for the VA, and many of them are actually Vets. However, if you live in the city that forgave Lebron James, you’re wait time will not “rock.”
  4. The further along your case is, the longer the wait is for the next step. This is especially true when you get to the BVA level. I have witnessed a few Veterans wait more than two years for a BVA hearing. Granted, not everyone will have to wait that long, but a BVA wait is often quite lengthy. There are ways to alleviate this. On average, if you request a video hearing over a traveling board or in person hearing, you likely won’t wait as long.
  5. Do not wait to file an appeal. Here is a situation we see far too often when Veterans come to us for representation. After you file your initial claim, you will receive a decision. You have migraines-vet-disabilityone year to file that appeal. Do not wait until week 50 to file an appeal. So many Vets come to us just a few weeks before their decision expires. While that May not seem like a big deal, think about this scenario. (Be patient, I am about to do math for the first time since undergrad.) Lets say that you filed your first claim in March of 2013. The VA then decided your case in March of 2014, and you were of course denied. You then have until March of 2015 to file an appeal. If you wait until March of 2015 to file the appeal, you likely won’t receive a decision again until March of 2016. I am going to try to make this a little less convoluted. If you wait the full year to file the appeal, you will only be at the third step of the process, and you’re now already three years into the claim. If you file your appeal in March of 2014 (When you received your initial decision) you will save one whole year. I get it though. I love putting things off, that’s what I have so many cavities. But when someone who procrastinates as much as I do tells you to “get on it,” take my advice.

After all of those negatives, let’s end on a positive note. Stick with your claim. Do not let the frustration get the best of you. I have seen people wait for years and finally get approved. On rare occasions we’ve gotten individuals connected up to 10 years after they filed their initial claim. In fact, I’ve worked in this industry for 5 years now. People I talked to way back in 2011 have received their final decisions. If you feel like this is overwhelming, ask for help. I know this may be hard to believe, but I work with a bunch of people who actually like VA Disability Law. Well, maybe not the law per se. We like working with Veterans. We are passionate about helping Vets. If I’m honest, I personally enjoy talking to those who have served. You won’t find that level of commitment other places. In other words, call me. Tell me your story, and I will let you know what we can do to help. If we can’t help, we’ll be honest with you.

If you like what you read today, call us for a free consultation. Our number is 1-877-526-3457. Or, fill out this form, and I’ll call you instead

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Smoke and Mirrors; How the VA is Spinning the Backlog

As I get older I’ve noticed that I’m becoming more aware of the way people and organizations try to spin things. Perhaps I’m just becoming more jaded as I approach the third year of my “flirty thirties.” For instance, when I am at a hockey game and they show some fella propose to his girlfriend on the jumbo Tron, I immediately boo them. I mean, that’s not romantic, that’s just a ploy to get attention. This is especially true because I am a Columbus Blue Jackets fan. They’ve only made the playoffs twice. Do you really want to tell your kids that their father asked you to marry him at the arena of the worst hockey team ever in the NHL?

There is a lot of smoke and mirrors out there in the world today. This is especially true when it comes to the VA Disability Backlog. 2016 will mark my fifth year working with VA disability. Claims have been backlogged since I started in 2011. So, the news reports state that backlog is dwindling, but what does that really mean?

Lohan smokingTo better understand this, let’s first examine what a backlogged claim really is in the mind of the VA. They consider a claim backlogged if it is waiting for more than 125 days for a decision.  That is the equivalent to four months or so. Here in the real world I know that it really still takes about 8-12 months to get a decision, appeal, or really any other type of decision, back from the VA. Here is where the smoke and mirrors come into play. And trust me, the VA has more smoke and mirrors than Lindsay Lohan’s apartment after her father has upset her again.

So, these backlog numbers you hear about going down on the news are quite deceptive. Did you know that this number only pertains to new applications, not the claims that are on appeal? So, what the VA is saying is that they use to have over 600,000 claims backlogged and now that number is 73,000. It’s a miracle and the VA has done such a great job. But have they? First of all, 73,000 Veterans who have not received an initial decision yet is still pretty bad. Let’s put that in perspective. In West WVUVirginia, most of us are fans of the West Virginia University Mountaineers. This excludes people in Huntington who went to Marshall or the few individuals who think Matthew McConaughey is a good actor. The Mountaineers play football at Milan Puskar Stadium. This stadium seats 60,000 people. That is quite a lot of individuals. However, you could not seat every Veteran who has a new claim for benefits backlogged in that stadium.

The VA magic show continues because they just make a decision on these claims. They aren’t necessarily approving benefits. They can deny a Veteran service connection on the initial application and that claim then goes away from their queue. So, they can say that the backlog is being decreased, but it does not mean Veterans are getting their benefits.

Here is a staggering fact…there are currently 425,480 VA disability claims on appeal.  That’s like 6 mediocre football team stadiums.  So, if there are 425,000 claims on appeal, and 73,000 backlogged at the initial level, doesn’t that mean that nearly 500,000 claims are pending? Well, the VA won’t advertise that. It’s much more sensational to say that most of the backlogged claims are gone.

blog photos 046Here is the truth about why we aren’t fans of this spin. We represent Veterans for their disability cases. A lot of people see these news stories about the backlog being diminished, and they get upset that their claim is still pending. They assume something is wrong, or that the person representing them is purposely dragging their case out. This is simply not the truth. But, because the VA came under more fire then General Motors in the past few years, they are doing a lot to make themselves look good. Most Veterans simply aren’t aware that these reduced backlog numbers only apply to new applicants.

My message for Veterans is simple. There is a pretty good chance that your claim is still going to take a long time. If you are about to face discharge, try to take part in a program called Benefits Delivery at Discharge. It’s a program that allows individuals approaching discharge to get a decision back quickly. You can read more about that here. If you have been discharged already, apply for all of your claims at once, submit evidence early, and be sure to get regular treatment. Of course, it never hurts to hire an attorney. Despite what some people may want you to believe, we actually want to get your claim approved as quickly as possible. While an attorney can’t speed up your case, there is a lot they can do to help you get approved. I’d be happy to tell you all about it too. Just give me a call for a free consultation. You can reach me toll free here: 1-877-526-3457. Or, fill out this form so I can call you later.

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Why is a C&P Exam Important for my VA Disability Claim?

Any Veteran who has filed a claim for VA Disability compensation is very familiar with the long list of abbreviations used by the VA for forms and procedures. A C&P exam is often at the top of that list, but you may not be aware of what it is, or how important it is to your VA Disability Claim.

A C&P (Compensation and Pension) Exam is scheduled by the VA after you have filed a claim for service connected benefits or when filing for an increase in a service connected disability. It is the job of the VA to schedule this exam to see if this disability is related to your time on active duty and to what degree it affects your life. Each disability will be evaluated by a separate C&P exam. 

It is very important to attend all C&P exams that are scheduled by the VA. If you are unable to attend you will need to call the VA and reschedule this exam. If you do not show up for the exam, the VA will most likely deny your claim or continue the current rating percentage. These exams are usually performed quickly. For example, if you have a C&P exam for an issue on your knee, your knee is the only thing that will be evaluated during the exam.   Make sure to be truthful when answering all questions at your C&P exam.

Please remember that C&P exams are very important in the VA being able to make a decision on your claims. Make it a point to go to each and every exam that is scheduled. (There may be several). 

If you have questions or concerns about C&P exams we have the people, knowledge, and resources to help you get the benefits you deserve. For a free phone consultation, give us a call at 1-877-526-3457, or tell us about your claim now.

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