A veteran who is seeking benefits from the VA will send and receive many different documents and letters in the mail as his or her claim makes its way through the VA claim system. Today, we will discuss one very important document that a veteran may send to the VA, the Notice of Disagreement, and one very important document that a veteran may receive from the VA, the Statement of the Case.
When a claim for benefits is denied, a veteran has one year from the date of the letter notifying him or her of the denial decision to send to the VA a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). Until recently, there was no set wording or form that the NOD had to follow, and all the NOD had to do was be clear about the fact that the veteran disagreed with the decision and wanted to appeal. However, the VA now has a standardized form (that will soon be the required method to submit a NOD. If a veteran sends a letter to the VA which is no more than a complaint about a decision, the VA will likely not consider that letter a NOD, and the time limit for filing an appeal may pass and the decision will become final. Once the NOD is received by the VA, it will send a confirmation that the NOD has been received and that the appeal process has been initiated. If a veteran does not receive confirmation as to the receipt of the NOD by the VA, it is important to follow-up in order to avoid missing the one-year time limit.
After the VA receives a NOD from a veteran, it will prepare the Statement of the Case (SOC) for all issues that were not granted service connection or the maximum rating. The SOC is an explanation of the decision, including a cover letter that gives instructions about the appeal process. Also included in the SOC is a list of the issues being decided in the claim, a summary of evidence, the pertinent laws and VA regulations that relate to the claim, and the decision and reasoning behind each issue. The SOC may include helpful information in order for the veteran to prepare his or her appeal, but the most important thing to remember about the SOC is that the veteran has 60 days from the date of the SOC cover letter to send in VA Form 9, which is the substantive appeal. Failure to respond to the SOC within 60 days by filing VA Form 9 may result in the appeal being closed and the decision becoming final.