At this stage, the VA has received enough evidence to decide. This is a good sign for Veterans since the likelihood of case backlog delaying their disability benefits claim diminishes at this point. A VA representative will review all the evidence in the Fully Developed Claim. They will often request additional proof from you, a medical professional, or a government agency. This article explains insights into getting ready for the Decision Stage in a veteran’s claim.
Gathering of Evidence
When your claim gets to this stage, a VSR (Veteran Service Representative) will look at what you have submitted so far. They will also request federal records from the Department of Justice, Social Security Administration and other government agencies. They will also ask you to sign authorization forms so they can request private medical records from your treatment centers. This step of the process can take a while. You may receive regular letters from the VA informing you they are working on your case and apologizing for the delay. It is helpful to enlist the no-cost help of an accredited veteran disability advocate at this point in the process to ensure that you have all the relevant evidence required for your claim. The VSR will review all the evidence and recommend a decision. If the VSR decides more evidence is needed, your claim will return to Step 3: Gathering of Evidence. If the VSR thinks all the evidence is sufficient, your lawsuit will move on to Step 5: Preparation for Notification.
Gathering of Additional Evidence
When a claim reaches the Preparation for Decision stage, a VA Rater, a Rating Veteran Service Representative (RVSR), will review all the evidence submitted. They will determine if more evidence is needed, including further medical examinations or a lay statement from you or your family. This is an important step in the process. Lay statements help the RVSR understand your disability from the perspective of someone with first-hand experience. They can be very powerful when used in conjunction with clinical evidence. The RVSR will review your provided information and request any missing federal records. They may also retrieve private treatment records if you signed authorization forms. If necessary, you will be scheduled for a Compensation and Pension Exam. It is common for claims to return to this step if additional evidence is required. This is why it is important to check eBenefits frequently.
Preparation for Decision
While preparing for the decision phase, the VA examines all the medical evidence and determines whether sufficient information exists to grant or deny your claim. This step typically lasts about seven to 14 business days, with a “business day” defined as any standard weekday that does not fall on a federal holiday. A VSR will review the information provided and request any necessary additional medical evidence from you, your healthcare providers or government agencies. If needed, a Compensation and Pension Exam may also be scheduled at this time. Suppose you were diagnosed with a disabling condition at the time of your entry into military service, which worsened during your military service. In that case, you may be eligible for compensation. This is known as aggravation and is one of the most common reasons why veterans seek disability benefits from the VA. Your VA-accredited attorney can help you understand the process of acquiring such benefits.
When the VA is ready to decide on your claim, they will review the evidence of record. They will identify favorable findings they can use to make an award or decision. They will also decide if they need to request any additional evidence. A VSR often sends a letter asking veterans to provide any additional information needed to complete their case. This is important because the veteran can save time by providing any requested records at this stage rather than at an appeals level. Once the evidence is reviewed and the RVSR makes a final decision, it will be sent to you in a decision packet via standard mailing. If you disagree with the decision, you have one year from the Statement of the Case date to file a notice of disagreement and have your claim reconsidered by the AOJ. If you disagree, you can appeal the AOJ’s decision by reaching the Board of Veterans Appeals or the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.