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If you are a veteran who has suffered an injury while serving in the military, a VA disability claim is probably the right way to go. However, in some instances, you may not get the outcome you’re seeking, and you may find yourself needing help along the way.

The VA disability claims process can be challenging and confusing. Fortunately, Gerling Law is ready to help get you the disability benefits you need. The VA disability attorneys at Gerling Law are well-versed in filing a VA disability claim, appealing a denial of benefits, and reopening a VA disability claim.

What Is a VA Disability Claim?

First and foremost, it is important to understand what a VA disability claim is. Veterans may be able to file a Veterans Affairs disability claim if they become sick or injured while serving in the military or if their service worsened a condition that already existed.

VA disability claims can cover those with physical or mental health conditions that developed or worsened before, during, or after their military service.

The VA Disability Appeals Process

If your VA disability claim is denied, you can appeal the decision. Fortunately, as of 2019, the VA has a brand new process for appealing a denial of benefits.

Previously, a veteran who wished to appeal their decision had one year to file a “Notice of Disagreement.” The VA would once again review the claim. If the claim was still denied, the VA would send the veteran a “Statement of the Case” giving thorough details regarding the denial. The veteran subsequently had 60 days to file a “Substantive Appeal.”

The VA did away with this old process and created a new and much more streamlined process. Instead of various deadlines, veterans now have one year from the date of their decision to appeal a denied claim. In place of the previous “Statement of the Case,” the VA will simply provide a decision, and the veteran will have one year to appeal.

While this new process is streamlined, it is still complicated, so you are likely to need some help with it. The VA disability benefits attorneys at Gerling Law have the experience to navigate the appeals process to help you get the disability payments you deserve.

When Can You Reopen Your VA Disability Claim?

It is imperative to understand that to reopen a VA disability claim, you must have been denied benefits and received a final decision. Reopening a VA disability claim is distinct from appealing a decision, so a different process applies. A decision from the VA becomes final when:

  • You’ve missed the deadline to appeal the decision or
  • You have fully exhausted the appeals process for your original decision.

Furthermore, to reopen your VA disability claim, the claim must be one of the following:

  • Service-connected VA disability compensation,
  • Dependency indemnity compensation (DIC), or
  • Burial benefits.

Finally, to be able to reopen a VA disability claim, you must have “new and material” evidence. 

It is helpful to note that there is no limit to the amount of time you have to reopen your VA disability claim. You are allowed to reopen your VA claim no matter how much time has passed. 

What Is “New and Material Evidence”?

The words “new” and “material” are used purposely. They describe the type of evidence required to reopen a VA disability claim.

As you can probably assume, “new” evidence is evidence that has not previously been introduced to the VA. For evidence to be new, the very first time you’re submitting it for the VA’s review is with your reopened VA disability claim.

In other words, new evidence means facts related to your claim that the VA is not already aware of or familiar with.

“Material” evidence must be evidence that is directly related to the reason your claim was denied in the first place. Material evidence proves or disproves an issue related to your claim.  Perhaps the VA did not have enough substantial evidence to verify your claim the first time around.

Providing material evidence could help the VA more thoroughly understand the basis of your original claim. It is helpful to use the letter the VA sent you detailing the specific reasons for your denial, as this can help guide you in providing material evidence.

An experienced VA disability benefits attorney can help you sort through your claim to see if there is new and material evidence to support reopening your claim.

VA Reopen Claim Form — VA Form 20-0095

Once you’ve decided you would like to proceed with reopening your VA disability claim, you must submit a form to reopen your VA claim, VA Form 20-0995

Once you have properly completed the form and included the new and material evidence, the VA will once again review your original claim and decision. After the VA has a chance to review your original claim, your request form, and all new and material evidence, a new decision will be issued.

You Can Appeal a Reopened VA Disability Claim Decision

Unfortunately, just reopening your VA disability claim does not mean you are any more likely to get an approval or a more favorable outcome. Even reopened claims can be denied.

Luckily, this is not the end. If you are denied benefits after reopening your VA disability claim, you still have a right to appeal the decision. A seasoned VA disability appeals attorney is best suited to help you with the appeal process. 

If You Receive a Denial, It Is Best to Seek Help Right Away

While you can reopen your VA disability claim at any time after the final decision, it is wise to start the process as soon as you can.

What happens when you reopen a VA claim? When you decide to reopen your VA disability claim, you are giving your claim a new effective date. The new effective date will be the date you file all required documents to have your claim reopened.

Therefore, any pay will go back to the date you applied to reopen your VA claim. Missing the original appeals deadline can mean losing out on thousands of dollars of VA disability benefits. If you appeal your decision on time, you preserve your original effective date and receive full benefits.

Reopening your claim is possible, but acting quickly can mean a better outcome for you. If you received a denial of VA disability benefits, it is best to seek the help of a VA disability appeals lawyer sooner rather than later.

Consult with a VA Disability Appeals Attorney

Gerling Law has been serving injured and disabled clients for over five decades. Our firm is passionate about helping clients when they need it most.

We understand the importance of disability benefits and want to help get you on the right track to receiving maximum benefits. We are a firm of experienced, driven, and successful attorneys ready to seek a favorable outcome on your behalf.

We’re ready to fight for you. Contact us today, and let’s see how we can help you.

Author Photo

Gayle Gerling Pettinga

Born and raised in Evansville, Gayle is a respected, experienced lawyer and a valued community leader. She graduated near the top of her class at Indiana University’s prestigious Maurer School of Law. She’s practiced law with one of the largest firms in Indianapolis as well as one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. And that means she knows how big law firms and big companies think and how they operate – and she will put that knowledge to work for you.

Gayle has received numerous awards and honors including Martindale-Hubbell — Peer Review Rated: AV®, American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys 10 Best Attorneys in Indiana for Exceptional and Outstanding Client Service, and YWCA Evansville 100 Years, 100 Women Honoree, 2011.

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