|Matthew Hill:||Hello and welcome to the Hill and Ponton VA Video Blog. I’m Matthew Hill here with …|
|Carol Ponton:||Carol Ponton.|
|Matthew Hill:||We are doing a series on the biggest mistakes we see that veterans make in their VA claim. We’ve talked about veterans just not filing a claim because someone tells them not to, veterans not filing all the claims that encompass their disability, talked about back disorder that caused leg pain and leg weakness, so if you don’t apply for both the VA’s probably not going to give you the full percentage they should be giving you on both so that you have the proper combined rating. Then we talked about an NOD versus reconsideration and we’ve also talked about appealing to the BVA. Today, we want to kind of take the last two, the appealing both at the regional office and then also to the BVA and talk about what your job is. Once you’ve appealed, you’re going to have a couple years on either one to do, but you need to not just sit back and just say, “Oh, it’s in the appeal process, it’s going.” What should people be doing?|
|Carol Ponton:||They should be getting evidence to prove their case. One of the things I see is when they’ve had, sometimes it’s service representatives, it’s other people, and they will do a memo for them that outlines their case. Instead of realizing that what the VA needs is proof, they talk about the benefit of the doubt and giving justice. That’s not going to get you anywhere. You need to figure out why did they deny me. Did they deny me because I don’t have a back condition? Did they deny me because my back condition is not related to service? A lot of veterans are confused about why they were really denied. I’ll have veterans, for instance, with PTSD. They will say, “I’m appealing it and I did have the stressor,” and they’re going on and on. I’ll say, “Well, you are service connected for PTSD. What you’re trying to get is a higher rate. You need to concentrate on how the PTSD affects you. Get buddy statements from people who are around you. Get a doctor statement about how the PTSD,” so you need to figure out, why have they denied you.|
|Matthew Hill:||I’d say the two most misconceived concepts in VA are benefit of the doubt and VA’s duty to assist. Like Carol said, we’ll see arguments all the time that the veteran has the benefit of the doubt, please grant him the benefits. The thing preceding that is the VA has a duty to assist the claim. When you file a claim, the VA has to help you prove your claim by going out, getting outside medical records, service records, and then most likely a medical exam by a C&P examiner showing, is something related to service or not, what should the rating be.|
|Once you have that first decision, their duty to assist is probably complete. They’ve probably gotten the exam and the exam, if you were denied, was probably negative. If that’s where you are in the evidence, and then what you’re arguing is the benefit of the doubt, if you don’t have any other evidence contradicting what the C&P examiner says, there is no doubt. The only evidence is the negative evidence against you. As Carol said, you need to know on what basis. Not only what was denied, but what was the basis for denial? That’s what you attack. Then and only then, once you’ve shown other evidence that’s positive for your claim, would the benefit of the doubt come into play.|
|If the only evidence, I guess this is my takeaway, if the only evidence is negative, there is no doubt, so you don’t get a benefit. Okay? It’s important to remember that. You know, ultimately, you are the master of your own claim. You know what happened. You know what’s going on now. Once you read the decision, hopefully, you know what they did wrong and what evidence you need to supplement there. You’re going to be waiting a long time for these claims, so the more you can do to actively buttress your claim or help it, the better you will be.|
|Carol Ponton:||Right. We just see a lot of veterans with really good claims, and they didn’t know what to do with them.|
|Matthew Hill:||Right. Well, thank you for tuning in to the VA Veteran’s Video Blog. We will be doing more on this series of big mistakes that veterans make. Thanks.|
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