VA Reconsideration

Remember all those pranks that NCOs used to play on newbies to the unit – particularly those butter bar 2nd Lieutenants that thought they knew it all?

“Go get me a box of grid squares, l.t.”

“We’re out of Chem-lyte batteries, private, can you go to the Supply Sergeant and load up?”

(Post your favorites in the comment section, below)

Well, VSOs (Veteran Service Organizations) have their own version of this prank for unsuspecting Veterans battling the VA.

It’s called the “Request for VA Reconsideration”.

What is the Request for VA Reconsideration?

Who the hell really knows?

There is no such thing as a Request for VA Reconsideration.

It doesn’t exist.  Not in any regulation.  Not in any policy manual. Not in any law or statute.

 

Near as I can tell, the “Request for VA Reconsideration” is something that the VA and VSOs have concocted to ensure that Veterans miss appeal deadlines.

If you get a VA Ratings Decision that you disagree with, file an appeal (See next section for how an appeal is filed). 

But even though it doesn’t exist, far too many VSOs often advise Veterans to file a “Request for VA Reconsideration” from an unfavorable Ratings Decision.

This is BAD advice.  Follow it at your own peril

If a Veteran disagrees with the Ratings Decision he or she should file an appeal….using the Notice of Disagreement VA Form 21-0958.

I’m going to tell you why….

Here’s  how VSOs screw Veterans with non-existent requests for “VA Reconsideration”.

A Veteran, who was the victim of of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) had a claim for benefits denied in an unfavorable Ratings Decision.

AMVETS – a Veterans Service Organization that represents a great number of Veterans – advised the veteran to request VA reconsideration “under the CRF 3.102 Reasonable Doubt.”

(I don’t have any clue what that means – its gibberish, “poser-lawyer” gobbledy-gook. The kind of thing someone says when they want to SOUND informed, without actually BEING informed. It’s like your bank telling you that it deposited your checks into an apple account for interesting people…..meaningless jibberish)

The veteran said that the AMVETS representative advised an appeal would “…take too long…” and VA reconsideration was “…the preferable response to the negative rating decision.”

So the Veteran went along with what the AMVETS representative advised.  Ultimately, no appeal was filed, and the rating decision became final.

Not unsurprisingly, the VA did not “reconsider” their decision.  They aren’t under any legal obligation to do so, so why would they?

The veteran is now at a significant procedural disadvantage and will have to reopen the claim.  Adding new and material evidence, in a Military Sexual Trauma claim, will be very difficult.  Oh – and the Veteran lost several years of past-due benefits because the effective date for a reopened claim is the date of the reopened claim – not the underlying original claim.

All that work for nothing – years of work.

Tens of thousands of past-due benefits, flushed down the toilet.   Because some AMVETS VSO Representative did what made him look good to the VA, without thinking of what was important for the Veteran.

This isn’t the first time a VSO screwed a Veteran out of money.  This VSO advises Veterans of the wrong filing timeline.  This VFW Representative actually TOLD the VA to disregard favorable evidence

You may really like your VSO Representative – and that’s totally cool with me.

I apply the Ronald Reagan philosophy with VSO reps – after 2 VSOs told my grandmother (wrongly) that she was not entitled to any VA Survivor benefits after her husband died as a result of injuries sustained at the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.

Don’t get me wrong – there are some GREAT ones out there.  And there are a couple that my firm maintains tight relationships with.   But until your VSO can be proven to be one of the great ones, watch them like a hawk.

 

What is the PROPER Way to Appeal a VA Ratings Decision? 

Within one (1) year of the date of the Notice of Action Letter delivering a VA Ratings Decision, file a Notice of Disagreement.

A Notice of Disagreement consists of 2 things:

1) An indication that you disagree with the decision (indicating which parts you disagree with)

2) Expression of an Intent to Appeal.

The VA wants all the Notices of Disagreement filed on this new form.  And I recommend that every Veteran include some very basic information in their Notice of Disagreement.

Where does the DRO Conference Fit into All This?

The DRO Conference – held by a VA Decision Review Officer – is usually done AFTER the Veteran has filed their appeal (Notice of Disagreement).

I am a big fan of the DRO process – with one exception, we have had a really favorable experience working with DROs to resolve claims and appeals.

Here are some factors you should consider when you request a DRO Conference.

And read how one Veteran approached a DRO Conference when the DRO told him that his issue was not actually on appeal.

 

How Do You Prevent a VSO from doing this to you?

I think there are a couple things you can do:

1) Know your own claim.  Get your VA C-File, study it, and know it better than your VSO Representative.

2) Learn about the VA Claims process – understand how the VA Claims Process works in your VA Claim.

3) Learn the 8 Steps to Improving Your VA Claim – even if someone else represents you, following these 8 Steps will help you verify that they know what they are doing.

4) If you have any doubts about your VSO – ask around about them.  They usually have a reputation of being “cozy with the VA”, or fierce advocates for the Veterans they work with.

5) Hire an attorney instead of a VSO.  Why? If an attorney pulled any one of those stunts, above, you could sue them for malpractice and file an ethics complaint with their State Bar.

Take the time, though, to find the attorney that is right for YOU and YOUR claim – learn the 8 Things Every Veteran Should Know Before Hiring an Attorney in their VA Claim.

12/2015 Update: The M21-1MR was recently updated to reflect a “reconsideration” process – here’s what happens: you request reconsideration, and if the VA does anything, they  will send you a letter that you are required to file VA Form 21-526 for a new claim.  What they have done, effectively, is prove my point – this process exists only to REDUCE your past due benefits. Appeal the decision denying benefits.  If you use the tools on this blog, you’ll probably have a better experience and hopefully a better outcome.

 

6 Comments

  1. ray

    I am a VSO and I have told veterans lets do a reconsideration. But I also told them that if they have a year to respond to the rating decision. They just need to know to make sure they get back in time to file the NOD. It has helped me and my clients save time because I pointed out the mistake without having to wait another 18 months. Everyone needs to be informed and all parties need to remember to file if you have not heard back before that year deadline.

    Reply
    • Chris Attig

      Ray,

      Thanks for your comment, and for setting the record straight.

      What I like about your approach is that you protect the filing of that NOD and watch to make sure it’s filed…..as long as the VSO (or agent) is doing that, I say file reconsiderations as much as you want. It’s when they are used to avoid a NOD or bump up claim filing stats for fund-raising purposes (which many VSOs that are not as diligent and professional as you are do) that I start to have problems.

      Thanks for being a diligent advocate for Veterans….reach out to me if I can ever get your office/group any training that y’all might need!

      Chris

      Reply
  2. Robert

    Of course not everyone and not every office at the VA is trained the same or follows the same protocol. That’s self-evident to anyone who deals regularly with the VA.

    Reconsideration exists for Pension claims. On the other hand, I’ve seen claimants request reconsideration, and then the VA comes back with their standard, “Do you want DRO or Traditional Appeal” form letter.

    So you never know.

    There’s also the part about accredited attorney’s and agents being barred from charging a fee unless a NOD is filed.

    Reply
    • Chris Attig

      I disagree – there is no reconsideration process for even pension claims. There may be a VSO “practice” of requesting reconsideration, but there is no law, rule or regulation that provides for one.

      Of course, I’m open to being wrong – just let me know the citation to the regulation that creates a “VA Reconsideration”.

      Chris

      Reply
  3. Snakecharmer

    I disagree..my request for recon was used on form 4138 and I was awarded a C&P and the claim was approved with back pay. Only took 11 months instead of years with an appeal

    Reply
    • Chris Attig

      I’m glad that worked well for ya’ … would you have filed the appeal if it got closer to the 12 month mark?

      Chris

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

x
2
Posts Remaining