The Process

1. Notice of Disagreement:

If you have received a decision within the year and are considering an appeal, then please contact us by completing the consultation request form to learn how we might help you get the most in VA compensation benefits.Notice of Disagreement (NOD) – The document to express that you do not agree with a decision and to initial the appeal review process. Any written correspondence from you or your representative indicating that you do not agree with a decision in a notice of disagreement.  It must be submitted to the VA within a year of the decision and it must be specific enough to identify what issue or issues you take exception to.  Frequently, one decision will have multiple issues.  Be mindful, listing that you disagree with your decision on PTSD may not be sufficient. For example, if you disagree with the effective date assigned, you should state that you disagree with the effective date as it will not be assumed.If you elect to work with Gumps V A Comp Services, we will prepare a notice of disagreement (NOD) for you and will help you decide the most effective process to proceed with your appeal.If you have a rating decision that is less than 1 year old, please contact us immediately to determine whether you should appeal this decision.

2. Choosing Appeal Review Process (DRO or Traditional):

Positioning an appeal is key to get it granted locally and quickly.  It is recommended that you secure the help of a skilled independently accredited agent to help you navigate the appeals process.  You have one year from the date of the VA’s rating decision on your claim to appeal that decision by filing a notice of disagreement (NOD).  After you file an NOD, the VA will send you an Appeal Election Letter, which will ask whether you prefer your appeal to be processed through the traditional review process or through the Decision Review Officer process.  The difference is the authority given to the decision maker.

If you elect DRO review, the adjudicator can reverse and grant your appeal without the benefit of any new and material evidence, which improves your chances of a favorable outcome on your appeal.  The number of DRO’s on the appeals team is limited and as a result, this type of review may take a bit longer.

If you elect traditional review process, the adjudicator may not reverse the earlier decision without the benefit of new and material evidence unless they determine that the earlier adjudicator committed clear and unmistakable error.  The number of adjudicators on the appeals team that are permitted to consider appeals under the traditional review process is greater than the number of DRO’s, so this type of review is generally a bit quicker.  If you have new and material evidence, then electing the traditional review process may be your better selection.

Once you have elected a process, the appeal will be processed accordingly.  As such, if new evidence comes to light, that evidence should be provided to the appeals team for adjudication regardless of the process you selected.

If you have received an Appeal Election Letter, you should contact us for assistance in making your selection and consider hiring us to fight for your compensation benefits on your behalf in your appeal. We will engage with the appeals team on your behalf in an effort to sway them to your favor.

3. Appeal Rating Decisions:

Complete the consultation form to request assistance from a skilled experienced individually accredited agent or attorney. You can leverage our experience for favorable results.If the appeals team decides to grant any aspect of your appeal, they will issue a new decision to award the benefit.  The decision will inform you on what was granted and how much compensation you are due as a result of the decision.  It will indicate whether the grant of that issue is considered a full grant of the benefit sought on appeal or it is considered only a partial grant of the benefit sought on appeal.  A partial grant of the benefit would mean that the new partially allowed issue will be listed in a statement of the case or subsequent supplemental statement of the case to continue through the appeals process.  You will be paid the newly awarded compensation whether you continue your appeal or not.If it is considered a full grant and you disagree with the decision, you will be required to initiate a new appeal by submitting a notice of disagreement.  For example, if the appeal was whether service connection is warranted for a right knee disability.  A fully favorable appeal decision would grant service connection for the right knee disability and award an evaluation of 10% with an effective date of January 10, 2012.   It is fully favorable, because the issue was whether service connection is warranted.  If you disagree with the effective date or the evaluation, you must submit a new notice of disagreement.An appeal decision may be awarded at any stage of the appeal process prior to the case being certified to the Board of Veterans Appeals.  It is quite possible that you can receive multiple appeal decisions awarding various aspects of your appeal through the course of an appeal.Each time we can put money in your pocket by getting the VA to render an appeal decision, we earn 20% of the retro as our fee for our assistance in your appeal.  The new level of compensation from that point forward is yours.  As such, we will pay close attention to the effective dates and evaluations assigned for you, because the more we can win for you, the more we can earn for our effort.

4. Statement of Case (SOC): 

If you have received a Statement of the Case, it is strongly recommended that you have a skilled advocate to help you navigate the appeals process. After you file an NOD, the appeals team will process through either the DRO or the traditional process as per your election.  If the appeals team decides to deny any issue of your appeal, they will issue a Statement of Case (SOC) that explains the decision. It usually takes, on average, twelve months from the submittal of the Notice of Disagreement for the appeals team to issue an SOC. The statement will provide pertinent regulations to the issues you raised in the NOD and the reasons why your appeal was denied.  Attached to the SOC, the VA will provide a VA Form 9 for you to complete if you wish to perfect your appeal.We strongly encourage you to submit that VA Form 9 as soon as possible to protect your appeal.  The law says that the VA Form 9 must be submitted within 60 days of the SOC or within 1 year from the rating decision, whichever is later.Given the time sensitive nature of your appeal, please do not hesitate to contact us right away for help in your appeal.

5. Substantive Appeal (VA Form 9):

After receiving the SOC, you must file a timely VA Form 9 to advance your appeal.  From this point forward, we strongly recommend that you have a skilled and experienced individually accredited advocate on your side.  We will submit a substantive appeal, commonly known as the VA Form 9, for you and we will help you navigate the appeals process from this point forward.  If you have already filed a VA Form 9, we can still help you win your appeal.-The VA Form 9 must be submitted to the regional office within 60 days after receiving the SOC, or within a year of the rating decision.

-The timely submittal of VA Form 9 “perfects” the appeal.-A perfected appeal is one that must be presented to the Board of Veterans Appeals unless it is fully granted or withdrawn at the regional office (local level.)

-By submitting this form, we protect your appeal.

On average, the formal review process following the submittal of the VA Form 9 is just over a year.  During this time we will analyze your case to determine what evidence is needed to persuade the appeals team to make a more favorable decision. We will advise and assist you wherever possible to obtain this evidence. The submittal of any new evidence prior to the case being certified to the BVA will require the local appeals team to review that evidence, in light of the old evidence, to determine whether it changes the outcome.

If the appeals team determines that it does change the outcome, they will issue an appeal decision to award the benefit.  If it does not change the outcome, they will issue a Supplemental Statement of the Case (SSOC). If more evidence is submitted at the issuance of the SSOC but before the case is certified to BVA, the appeals team is required to conduct another review prior to sending the case to the BVA.  As a result, an appeal may linger in this phrase indefinitely until no new evidence is received promptly the additional reviews or we waive the period to submit additional evidence and request that it be certified to BVA as soon as possible. Testimony given during a personal hearing is considered new evidence and must be considered prior to certification to BVA.

When considering our overall strategy for your appeal, we may request a personal hearing if we feel it could be beneficial to your case. It takes, on average, eight months for the regional office to arrange a local hearing.

6. Supplemental Statement of Case (SSOC):

After you have filed your VA Form 9 on an appeal, your case will eventually be reviewed by the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) for final disposition.  Before the file can be transferred to the BVA, any new evidence or testimony given before the local regional office must be considered in light of your appeal.  If the appeals team decides not to fully grant your appeal, a Supplemental Statement of the Case (SSOC) is issued. The SSOC explains the decision that was reached based on any new evidence that was received or testimony obtained during the local hearing. If a local hearing is conducted, the VA employee who held the hearing will conduct a review of the appeal and issue a new decision. If new evidence is submitted, a VA adjudicator on the appeals team who did not participate in the earlier decision will conduct a review of the appeal and issue a decision. If the decision is not fully favorable, the appeals team will issue a Supplemental Statement of the Case (SSOC) that explains the reasons for the decision. This process of review is repeated every time new material evidence is added to the case. An SSOC is also issued again following each review of new evidence.When it is determined that all possible evidence has been provided and a fully favorable outcome cannot be reached, the case will be certified for final review by the Board of Veterans Appeals(BVA).

7. Personal Hearings:

According to your due process rights, you may request a personal hearing at any time through the process.  Often the VA or veterans service officers will encourage you to request a personal hearing when you submit your notice of disagreement (NOD).  We do not recommend requesting a hearing, especially when you have the option to request a DRO review of your appeal.  The DRO may reverse the previously decision without the benefit of any new evidence.If the DRO continues to deny your appeal, you may consider requesting a personal hearing after the issuance of the Statement of the Case.  Generally, we recommend that should use this option after you have exhausted all possible avenues of medical development, evidence discovery and medical opinions in any effort to persuade the local appeals team to award your appeal.Presenting testimony before a local hearing officer gives you another opportunity to get a favorable decision prior to the case getting transferred to the BVA for final disposition.

Even if you have had a local hearing, you may also elect to have a personal hearing with the Veterans Administrative Law Judge before the BVA.  The BVA offers local travel board hearings, video conference hearings and in-person hearings in Washington, DC.

A travel board hearing generally takes the longer to schedule, as a member of the Board must plan a visit to your local regional office.  A video conference hearing or an in-person hearing is generally quicker.  The video conference is the most popular version as it is convenient for the veteran to visit his local regional office and present his testimony to the Veterans Administrative Law Judge through video teleconferencing equipment.

8. BVA Certification of Final Disposition:

After you have exhausted all potential remedies for a favorable decision before your local VA regional office, your appeal will be certified to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) for a final review and proper disposition.  If your case has been certified to BVA, you will be given a 90 day period to select new representation, submit additional evidence, or request a hearing.It is critical to have a skilled advocate on your side at this point.  Your Gumps Legal advocate reviews the entire case and prepares a written document of supportive legal arguments for presentation to a Veterans Administrative Law Judge (VALJ).  It is recommended that you have a skilled and experienced advocate to leverage in your favor at this level in the appeal. Legal arguments made here are essential, because if you fail to argue it at this level, you generally cannot raise a new theory of entitlement or new legal arguments to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims should the BVA deny your appeal.We may also request a hearing with the VALJ and state our case in person. It may take a year or more to get a hearing scheduled. On average, it takes three to four months from the hearing date to get a decision from the BVA VALJ. All BVA cases are handled in docket-date order.  Your Gumps Legal advocate may be able to get your case can be advanced on the docket in certain circumstances.

It is common for an appeal to take two or three years before it is addressed by the VALJ.  Because BVA decisions can take so long, it is important to try and get the case granted at the local level.

9. BVA Decision:

After the expiration of the 90 day period following certification to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA).  It will undergo its Final Review – The Judge’s Decision: After the VALJ considers all evidence, legal arguments and your contentions, a decision will be issued to:

Deny the claim– If the BVA denies the claim you still have options.

You can:

-File a motion for reconsideration

-File a motion for revision

-Appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims

-Reopen the claim with the regional office by submitting new evidence

10. Appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims:

* Appeals Management Center (AMC) – The AMC acts in place of the regional office.  It is located in Washington DC and was created to streamline the processing of all remand decision from all regional offices.  However, some BVA remand cases are actually returned to the regional office.  Those cases involving a professional independently accredited agent or attorney are generally not processed through the AMC.

Grant the claim – The Board instructs the RO to satisfy the claim. The regional office will then be required to issue an appeal decision to award the benefits.  It generally takes at least another three to four months before benefits begin.

Remand the claim – The Board returns the case to the regional office (RO) or AMC* and requests that specific development be completed on the case. After the RO complies with the development, they may render:

-A fully favorable appeal decision that resolves the appeal.

-A partially favorable decision or continue to deny the appeal, in which case they will issue another SSOC and return the case to the BVA for final disposition where, again, the Board may grant, remand, or deny the claim.