Posts Tagged ‘Supplemental Statement of the Case’

Establishing Service Connection

Written by Maurice Abarr on . Posted in Veterans Disability

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For the VA to approve your claim, they’re looking for these three things:

  1. Evidence of a current disability.
  2. Evidence of something that happened in-service.
  3. Evidence connecting the first two.

Simply put, the VA needs to know that you’re currently disabled and that the something that happened while you were a service member is connected to your current disability. Here’s an example:

You have trouble getting around because your knee hurts; that’s the current disability. When you were in the service, you hurt your knee during training and you went on Sick Call to get it treated. There will be a record of treatment that should now be a part of your C-File. This is the in-service incident. The next part is up to a doctor to provide evidence that the past injury is, at least in part, causing your current disability.

A key point to remember is that it’s not enough to have a bad knee. Nor is it enough to have had an injury during your time in the service. The medical evidence connecting the two is crucial.

Of course, if your disability claim was initially rejected by the VA, it may not have been such an obvious case. In other words, in the eyes of whoever reviewed your application, one of the necessary elements was lacking. When you file your Notice of Disagreement (NOD), the VA is required to respond with a Statement of the Case (SOC). The SOC should outline the reasons that the VA came to the decision that they did–referring to specific claims and the evidence that they evaluated to reach their conclusions. So, that means it should be a guide to which of the three elements of service connection needs to bolstered in your appeal.

This highlights why it’s so important to have your Claim File (C-File): It contains the evidence that the VA used to evaluate your claim. Having the C-File allows for verification that records of in-service injuries are actually there. Or, that medical reports regarding your current disability are being included. Or, that a current medical opinion is actually connecting the two.

Consequently, it’s advisable to seek qualified legal help. It’s easy to believe that your situation is as obvious as the example above. After all, you lived it and you’re still living it. But, a trained and experienced professional can look at what you’re telling the VA, find the parts that need to be shored up, and put you on the path for a favorable ruling.

The best way to approach your appeal will depend upon the “what’s” in the VA’s SOC. For example, if there’s not enough evidence of an in-service injury, you may need to get “buddy letters” from your fellow service members to confirm what you experienced. Sometimes you may need a private doctor to perform a medical examination and write a report to provide evidence of service connection. Such a report will frequently contradict the findings from the Compensation & Pension Exam, done by a doctor that the VA themselves selected.

We at The Law Offices of Maurice L. Abarr are familiar with appealing VA Disability claims and can guide you to the specific elements you need to prove Service Connection. Contact us for a free consultation.

SOC, Form 9, & You

Written by Maurice Abarr on . Posted in Veterans Disability

More help from Maurice…

So you’ve filed your Notice of Disagreement (NOD). The VA must respond with a “Statement of the Case” (SOC). The SOC is designed to explain all reasons that the VA reached their decision. It should refer to your specific claims, the evidence that they used to evaluate your claims, and the laws and regulations they applied to reach their conclusions.

Depending upon your particular claim, an SOC can get long and complicated. It may comprise many pages of arcane language regarding the laws, regulations, and rules that the VA Regional Office used as the basis for their decision. It’s important to know and understand everything that’s in there, however. Did the VA miss an important piece of evidence in your C-File? Did they rely on an outdated rule?

Once you have the SOC, it is your responsibility to respond with VA Form 9, “Appeal to Board of Veterans Appeals,” or as it’s more commonly called Form 9. This may be the most important form that gets filed in your appeal and you may hear it referred to as the “Substantive Appeal.” That’s because this is where you specify all of the reasons you believe the VA got it wrong.

On the Form 9, you’ll need to state each decision with which you disagree–and state every reason for your disagreement. The idea is to include everything that you want the VA to consider. This might include new evidence that should have been in your C-File but turned out to be missing. And, since the goal is to make it as easy as possible for the VA to say, “Yes,” to your appeal, it’s also a good idea to include what you think is the right decision.

Another important consideration is that while you had one year to file your NOD, you have only 60 days to file your Form 9. Just like the NOD, if you don’t meet the deadline, your appeal is pretty much over.

Once you’ve completed your Form 9, you’ll send it to the VA office that denied your initial claim. As with all paperwork sent to the VA, you should (a) save a copy for yourself and (b) send it to the VA in a way that provides proof of delivery.

Once the VA has your Form 9, a number of different things can happen. If you’re very lucky, the decision might get changed right there. But it’s just as likely that your appeal will continue. If you submitted something new for the VA to consider, you’ll receive a “Supplemental Statement of the Case” (SSOC)–to which you would respond with another Form 9. And, of course, all the same rules and deadlines would apply to the new submission.

Filling out an effective Form 9 can be tricky. Overlooking something at this stage can derail your appeal. Considering all the technicalities involved in this, if you haven’t contacted and retained qualified legal assistance now may be a very good time to consider it. We at The Law Offices of Maurice L. Abarr are at your disposal. Contact us for a free consultation.

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