Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Veterans Law Blog, the largest and longest running blog on veterans benefits, written by VA-accredited attorney Chris Attig.
This question pops up in my Veterans Mail Call inbox a lot. It also frequently appears on a few social media groups and pages I frequent, and the answer to it is vital.
“The VA issued a ratings decision in my case. Before I appeal, I want to request reconsideration of the decision. Should I do this? If so, how do I do it?”
The quick answer is this: There is no such thing in the VA claims process known as “reconsideration of a VA ratings decision.”
If you get a VA ratings decision that you feel is in error — in any of what I call the “four pillars” of a VA claim — you have only two options:
- File a notice of disagreement with or without a request for a decision review officer review expressing dissatisfaction with the decision and your intent to appeal it to the Board of Veterans Appeals.
- Abandon your claim.
In seven years of representing veterans, I have never seen a situation where I would recommend that a veteran “abandon” their claim.
Why the confusion over reconsideration requests in the VA rating decision appeal process?
The confusion is coming from a couple places, most likely, although I can only speculate.
There are a lot of bar-room veterans service organizations and advocates out there.
You know the type. The salty dog (sorry, Marines) down at the VFW, or at the pub down the street the bar who tells you how you should go for 100% individual unemployability, or that if you just say “such and such,” you’ll win big dollars in past-due benefits.
Most times, the bar-room advocate is about as effective as the jailhouse lawyer.
There are two times when you can request reconsideration. The first time is after an adverse Board of Veterans Appeals decision. The second is after a Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims decision by a single judge.
In the first situation, my own law firm does not consider requesting reconsideration of appeals decisions except in the rarest of rare situations.
In the one case where we almost requested reconsideration, after conferring with the client we decided that it would just be faster and more effective to file a CAVC appeal than to request reconsideration. Metaphorically speaking, if you request a second opinion from the same doctor that gave you the first opinion, what do you think will change?
By contrast, requesting reconsideration after an adverse CAVC single-judge decision is just smart thinking.
There are two types of advocates you can (generally) trust in your VA appeal.
Veterans service organizations, and accredited VA attorneys.
Some say you can’t trust VSOs, but I think in the pre-decisional phases, a VSO can be very useful.
When it comes to appeals, though, you really ought to consider a VA-accredited attorney: VSOs don’t have legal training, can’t spot all the legal issues, and don’t always know the best way to fill out forms, etc.
Don’t trust attorneys?
Bottom Line: You cannot request reconsideration of an adverse VA regional office ratings decision.
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