If you call my VA Disability law firm looking for a VA Benefits attorney to represent you in your VA Claim or Appeal, you will quickly find out that the Attig Law Firm won’t offer representation until you’ve received a VA Ratings Decision on your claim.
With one exception, we won’t offer a consultation until you’ve been provided with a VA Ratings Decision.
I have found that in those where an attorney at the Attig Law Firm began representation prior to the issuance of Ratings Decision, the VA tucked its head into its shell before I could say, “I represent Mr. Smith, the Veteran”.
In fact, the lack of a VA Ratings Decision is the single biggest reason the Attig Law Firm does not offer a consultation to Veterans that contact the Firm.
So how do you get the VA Ratings Decision in the first place?
Follow these 5 Steps to see if you can shorten your VA Ratings Decision time.
Step #1: Did you learn How to File Your VA Claim, the right way?
If you just file your claim, and wait for the VA to develop your case on its timeline, you will wait years. If you hire a VSO and all they do is file your claim and let the VA do the work, then you will wait for years.
But if YOU learn to file a VA Claim the right way, you will be able to get a faster decision – and hopefully a more correct and thorough one – from the VA.
How do I know that filing a VA Claim and doing all the work yourself leads to a faster decision?
Because the VA has a process called the “Fully Developed Claim” process – if you do ALL the leg-work in your claim (file all the right forms, add all the right evidence, and cleanly and persuasively explain your claim to the VA – then your claim will be included in the FDC process. The VA is trying to grant FDC claims in under 125 days.
Check out my training package “How to File a VA Claim”, and I will teach you how to file a VA Claim – everything you need to do to get your claim in the FDC pipeline.
Heck, if you have a VSO developing your claim, check out the training package anyway – make sure that your VSO is doing everything that they promised they would when they got you to pay that lifetime membership fee.
Step #2: The Biggest Reason you haven’t received a VA Ratings Decision yet is….
The VA typically works new claims (or tells folks that it works) on a “First-In-First-Out” basis.
This means that it could take up to 18 months to get an initial decision on even a straightforward claim for benefits.
Right now (2014), Veterans filing new claims have to wait while the VA plays catch-up. The VA calls this “Working on the Backlog”. So, if you have an original claim filed before 2011 without a Ratings Decision, then your claim is “in the backlog” and you can expect a decision, well, whenever the VA feels like it.
If your VA appeal is at the BVA, you will get a decision based on when the BVA handles your “docket number”.
As of November 2014, it is the understanding of this VA Benefits attorney that the BVA is only working on VA Appeals that were certified to the BVA (and assigned a Docket Number) in 2012.
Bottom line, if you have filed a claim for VA Compensation, it is probably going to take the VA Regional office between 6 and 18 months to issue an initial decision in your claim.
Step #3: I’ve waited long enough – and still don’t have a ratings decision.
Have you waited 18 months? Still no decision?
The second most common reason for delays in VA Decision is the poor presentation of your claim.
There are some legitimate reasons that an initial decision could take more than 18 months, but not very many. And if you are here reading this post, those legitimate reasons probably don’t apply to you.
There are very clear patterns in the VA’s delay – or “backlog”.
How did I know that there are very clear patterns?
As a VA benefits lawyer, I have looked at hundreds – quite probably thousands – of VA Claims Files. And as I did those C-File reviews, I took notes. I studied patterns. And make no mistake, patterns emerged.
I found 5 patterns that most delayed VA Claims had in common. And I found that by fixing these big 5 problems as a VA benefits attorney representing my clients, I could get a quicker decision from the VA for my client.
I want to share these 5 patterns with you – because I believe that you can solve the majority of your VA Claims problems by focusing on fixing these 5 problems.
So I have published an eBook that describes the 5 biggest patterns that lead to a Veterans claim for benefits not getting a decision in a reasonable amount of time. Here’s where you can get a copy of this eBook.
If you have been waiting more than 18 months for your VA Ratings Decision, and have not gotten it, the first thing you can do is to fix these 5 problems.
Step #4: The VA Handles the EASY Claims First.
What’s an “easy” claim?
In my experience, the easy claims are the ones that a VA Rater can look at, easily understand, and decide with minimal work. That means:
* You speak the VAs Jargon
* You’ve clearly explained each of the 4 Pillars of Your VA Claim.
* You’ve included the RIGHT amount of “5-Star Evidence” to support each fact in each of those 4 Pillars.
* Your writing is clear, simple, and persuasive.
This last point is – I believe – the most important.
Most Veterans send piles of medical records and forms in to the VA, and when nothing happens, they resend the same pile of paper with a cover letter or VA Form 21-4138 ranting about the VA’s incompetence.
I call this “Giving the VA a Haystack, and Yelling When They Can’t Find the Needle”.
It’s the quickest way to guarantee that your VA Claim is going to end up in a box in the VA Regional Office file room, until someone decides to invest the time to figure out your claim.
An alternative is to present a clear and persuasive argument to the VA – one that makes them WANT to grant your claim.
Let’s face it, writing is hard for most folks.
But it doesn’t have to be.
You can learn how to write persuasively without having to go back to grammar school. Try my 5 Step Method to improving your writing – I call it “Get to the POINT”. It’s the method that I use as a Veterans benefits attorney in writing appeals for my own VA benefits clients.
Step #5: I’ve “fixed” these problems, and I’m still waiting.
This, unfortunately, is the symptom of a bigger problem in your VA Claim or Appeal.
Short of producing a “paper trail” to present to the CAVC in a Petition for Writ of Mandamus, there isn’t a whole lot to do to FORCE the VA’s hand.
But, if you have waited 18 months, and have done everything I suggest in my eBook copy of “5 Reasons the VA Keeps Screwing Up your VA Claim”, send me a Mail Call Submission and tell me about it: I may not be able to help, but I can start assessing whether there are new patterns in long delays from the VA that we haven’t seen yet.
Do you have any different or better ideas how to get the VA to issue a Ratings Decision that you can appeal?
Share them with your fellow Veterans in the comment section below.
Bottom Line – Some of you will need a VA Benefits Attorney to help.
While the 4 Steps I have listed above will help most Veterans to dramatically reduce their VA Claims decision wait time, they won’t help everyone.
There are some claims that the VA will take forever on. And in these cases, you are going to want to reach out to a VA Benefits Attorney to assist you in your VA Claim or Appeal. Here are some examples of the types of situations I am talking about:
Example 1: You received a BVA Decision denying all or part of your claim.
Once the BVA denies all or part of your claim, the next step is the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
When you get here, the “rules” change – the VA will have an attorney, and the attorney’s job is to work in the best interest of his (or her) client – the Secretary of the VA.
The types of errors that the Veterans Court can review – and the remedy that they can provide – is much smaller than what the BVA can do. However, attorneys like the Attig Law Firm that spend a lot of time following the Veterans Court, handling cases before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Court, and talking to other attorneys about their cases will know a lot more ways to argue for the relief that you need in your appeal.
I would not hesitate to contact an accredited VA attorney to handle an appeal of a bad BVA decision to the Veterans Court.
Example 2: Vietnam era Veterans that served in Korea, Thailand, or who were a Brown Water Navy Vet.
The VA may quickly deny your claim, but they will take forever to adjudicate your appeal or challenges to effective dates.
The VA doesn’t like applying the favorable Nehmer effective date rules in your cases, and you will probably need the help of a Veterans Benefits Attorney in your Agent Orange effective date claim if you were exposed to Agent Orange outside the Republic of Vietnam
Example 3: Survivor Benefits claims take a long time.
There are a couple reasons for this. First, on the totem pole of VA claims, survivors are lowest. Second, it has been my experience that most VA raters and DROs don’t understand the complexities of VA Survivor benefits claims.
If you are denied survivor benefits, you will likely need the help of a Veterans disability attorney to help prove service-connection of the cause of the Veterans death, entitlement to Accrued Benefits, and eligibility for substitution into a deceased Veteran’s claim.
Example 4: Military Sexual Trauma claims can take a long time.
The primary reason for delays in Military Sexual trauma claims is that the VA makes MST victims jump through more hoops than other Veterans. This means that Lay Evidence is extremely powerful in claims for VA disability compensation resulting from a MST – a Veterans disability lawyer can help you to collect and present this complicated and difficult to find Lay Evidence in your MST claim.
If you have a claim for disability compensation due to a rape or sexual assault in the military – be sure to read this inspirational post by a very public and visible MST Survivor.
By the way – I am working on a Veterans Law Guidebook for MST Survivors battling the VA – click here to find out how to get your advance copy of my Military Sexual Trauma Guidebook.
There are many other claims that the VA takes a long time with – but these are just a handful I chose to illustrate reasons WHY the VA takes so long.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not making excuses for the VA’s delays. I am a firm believer that if the lower levels of the VA bureaucracy can adopt the belief and actions of the new VA Secretary, then claims shouldn’t take more than a few months to properly decide and rate.
Try the 5 Steps above, and if you still don’t get results, then I want you to contact me through the Mail Call form – I will review the facts you share with me and see if there is some MORE information that I can share with other Veterans on the Veterans Law Blog to help you get out of the VA Hamster Wheel a little faster.