By: Susan Paczak
Before March 24, 2015, if veterans want to appeal a Rating Decision they just had to send something in writing to VA saying that they were not satisfied with the decision and wanted to contest it. On March 24, 2015, new rules, written by the VA, went into effect. Under these rules, if veterans want to appeal, they now have to send in a special form—Notice of Disagreement (NOD) (VA Form 21-0958). On this form, veterans indicate what part(s) of the decision they are appealing. In other words, if the veteran claimed service connection for five conditions and wants to appeal the decisions on all five, all five must be listed on the NOD. Veterans must also list what they are specifically appealing: service connection, rating, effective date, or other. The rules say that veterans must also state that they want appellate review. However, the form does not state that you have to ask for appellate review.
The rules that require use of the form were challenged by several Veterans’ Service Organizations and the National Organization of Veterans Advocates (NOVA). Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that it was legal for the VA to require veterans to file a specific form to appeal. This means that unless one of the parties appeals to the Supreme Court, and the Court overturns the Circuit Court’s ruling, veterans must follow these rules, or their appeals will be dismissed.
The VA is making the process for getting and appealing benefits more difficult. There are back logs of initial claims and appeals, and the VA is trying to make the process more complicated and difficult, in order to cut back on the number of veterans claiming benefits or appealing their claims. This is totally out of step with the VA’s mission to help veterans. A more difficult process means that more veterans will need help with their appeals. An accredited attorney can help a veteran file and present an appeal to the VA to increase the veteran’s chance of receiving the benefits they earned.