Filing for disability with the Department of Veterans Affairs can be one of the most frustrating parts of becoming a civilian. The process of filing is confusing as hell; there’s so much information out there to “help” you that you might not know where to start; and tracking down your entire medical history is just a real pain in the ass.
So what happens if after you manage to create a case, provide all the supporting documentation, and submit it to the VA, you don’t get the rating you you think you’re supposed to have?
If you think that VA got your disability rating incorrect, there is something you can do about it. It’s called a “Notice of Disagreement,” and you can file it online. Once you submit this form, a decision review officer will process your appeal as though it was a new claim. Essentially, he or she will conduct a new review of your disabilities and determine your status without looking at the original ratings.
But before you decide to take on the VA and (likely) another mountain of paperwork in addition to some more waiting, be sure you understand your ratings fully. When you apply for disability, your medical information is inputted by the rater, the rating for each medical issue is calculated, and an explanation for each rating is provided.
Once your rating is issued, the VA provides you a packet of documents, which include issue-by-issue justifications and what qualifies for the next level rating. If you review your case and meet those requirements, you should file the Notice of Disagreement. If not, perhaps reconsider.
There are typically three issues you can dispute: service connection, effective date, and evaluation of your disability. The third, based on symptoms, is the most common point of disagreement for most veterans who file, because they feel the percentages don’t accurately reflect their conditions.
According to VA, to file the Notice of Disagreement, you will have to submit VA-Form 21-0958 that was included with your claim decision. In case you want a clearer picture of how the ratings work, the VA provides a number resources on the topic, and if you need help, contact a veteran service organization like Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, or the American Legion. They can help you sort through the process and get you the benefits you deserve. If necessary, speak to an appeals lawyer about your disability rights, but don’t pay for legal services until you’ve explored all other options.