Posts Tagged ‘Claim Deadlines’

VA “Proposal To Reduce” & You

Written by Maurice Abarr on . Posted in Veterans Disability

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In the event you receive a letter from the Veterans Administration proposing to reduce the percentage of your disability award, you need to take prompt action to protect yourself.

The VA’s decision is likely based upon some review and interpretation of the medical evidence which has triggered the sending of this notice. If you do nothing, the VA will assume you agree with this finding and it will proceed in its inimitable bureaucratic way to reduce your award.

There is a window of opportunity to challenge and slow down this process. You must request (in writing) a hearing within thirty (30) days of the notice’s date. The VA’s proposal to reduce is not a final decision and you cannot immediately appeal the proposal itself.

However, if you request a hearing within the 30-day period, it will take months for the hearing to be scheduled. During that time, you can be obtaining medical evidence to prove you are still disabled to the same degree—or possibly more disabled than the percentage originally awarded to you.

The Bottom Line: Doing nothing is NOT in your interest. If the VA reduces your award percentage, you will have to go through the long process of appealing that reduction—all the while receiving a lower monetary benefit triggered by the reduced percentage. If you have had your VA benefits claim denied or reduced, contact us for a case review. There’s no cost for this. My staff and I have the specialized skills to help you get a fair deal from the VA.

To The Veteran Who Says “But, I didn’t know!” ~ A Call To Action

Written by Maurice Abarr on . Posted in Veterans Disability

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Having interviewed dozens of Veterans who are in the claim process (or, should be) for their Service-Connected Disability, these remarks are for those who have yet to file a claim.

It’s understandable that Veterans in the process of separation/discharge from military service “just want to get home.” Unfortunately, many miss an opportunity to initiate a claim for their Service-Connected Disability(ies). The entitlement to VA Disability Compensation usually STARTS with the date you make your claim. As time passes, you may be losing money and jeopardizing your health by not starting the compensation process by initiating a claim.

It’s IMPORTANT for you to understand that it becomes more difficult to prove a claim for disability as time passes. The greater the interval between your date of separation and the date of your claim, the more evidence is likely to be needed to connect your current disability back to your military service.

It’s most disturbing when Veterans tell me that they did not even know a claim was possible! At least once a month, I interview a Veteran who simply says, “I didn’t know I could get benefits for the disability that started with my military service. I go to the VA and I get my medications [or therapy]. But, no one told me I could get money . . .every month. . . because of my disability.”

So if you (or a Veteran you know) seem to be having difficulty living life, working, or functioning in society–and these problems started with the military experience–the message is simple: FILE A CLAIM! Get the process started NOW!

My staff and I frequently counsel Veterans who are making claims for the first time on how they need to start the process. We do this free of charge. Then, if the VA doesn’t get it right (which often happens. . .some would argue “chronically”), we have the Veteran’s back and help him/her appeal. That’s what we do and we welcome hearing from you. So, now you do know.

Notice of Disagreement Update

Written by Maurice Abarr on . Posted in Veterans Disability

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Everything we said in previous blogs about your Notice of Disagreement (NOD) was true—when we said it. But the Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced a significant rule change that has a big impact on how veterans can file an appeal. The currently optional VA Form 21-0958 Notice of Disagreement will become mandatory in March of 2015. This means that the “I disagree with the VA’s ratings decision & I plan to appeal” letter or even the VA Form 21-4138 Statement in Support of Claim will NOT start your appeal.

So what does this mean to you? There’s still a ONE-YEAR deadline from the date of any VA decision you wish to appeal within which to start your appeal. Because of the inherent detail involved in the new NOD form, it means that it’s even MORE important to start your appeal process as soon as possible. As soon as you get your determination from the VA on your claim, request a copy of your Claim File (C-File)—more about that will be coming soon—and start work on the new NOD form.

The rule change notwithstanding, everything else we said before is still true. Form 21-0958 can be tricky and it may be a good idea to get qualified legal assistance to fill it out. You still need to keep a copy of it. And, it still needs to be sent to the VA office that sent you the decision letter from which you are appealing. Of course, you still need to send it in a way that proves that you sent it…and so on.

This VA rules change highlights a critical and overriding concept that you’ll need to keep in mind during the process of your appeal: the governing law and the rules that come from that law are NOT set in stone. It’s the responsibility of anyone that helps you during this process—whether you hire an attorney or go to a Veteran’s Service Organization—to keep abreast of those changes and make sure that they’re followed to ensure a fair hearing of your case. We, at The Law Offices of Maurice L. Abarr, are fully-equipped to help you. Contact us for a free consultation.

Deadlines Matter

Written by Maurice Abarr on . Posted in Veterans Disability

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We’ve mentioned a few times how important deadlines are when you’re going through the appeals process on your VA disability claim. After all, you could do everything right, have all the necessary evidence assembled, and have all the forms filled out properly. But, if you miss a deadline, all that work is for naught. So we can’t emphasize enough the importance of keeping an eye on all the important deadlines in your appeals process.

An issue that’s come up recently is when the countdown actually starts. You probably know that you have one year to file your Notice of Disagreement (NOD) but when does that year actually begin? It used to be a fairly simple date to find:

NOD1a

The VA formerly delivered a very clear response to a veteran’s initial claim with a cover letter that said “Ratings Decision” along with a date. That date (or the date of the cover letter accompanying the Rating Decision) was the starting bell for the one-year deadline.

The VA, however, has changed the format of their “decision” letter. It now looks like this:

NOD2

As you can see, there is no longer a clear heading that reads, “Rating Decision.” Unfortunately, this has led to some confusion as to whether the clock has started on the deadline.

Make no mistake, the clock is most definitely running. Even though that nice “Ratings Decision” heading (along with a date right underneath that heading) is no longer a part of the VA’s decision letter, this is their legal response to your claim for service-connected disability and the deadline for your NOD is counting down. Unfortunately, to find the start date and to figure out the corresponding deadline, you have to scrutinize this new decision letter more closely. There is usually a date stamped some place on the letter. You count from this date. If there is none, we suggest that you save the envelope the decision came in–assuming that it is clearly postmarked. If you have lost the envelope (or the postmark is not legible), we recommend that you write a letter to the Regional Office issuing the decision letter–enclose a copy of the undated decision letter–and request the VA to tell you the date they have in their records as the date it was sent to you.

If you’re at all unclear as to whether you’ve received your actual Ratings Decision or whether the countdown for the deadline for your NOD has started, then please seek qualified legal assistance. This is too important to lose your right to appeal because of a missed deadline. If you need help with your case, feel free to call upon us at The Law Offices of Maurice L. Abarr for a no-cost initial consultation.

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