For many reasons, the rating decision is the piece of mail sent by the VA which veterans are most excited to receive, especially when it includes a favorable rating and effective date. Receiving a rating decision also means that your case is moving along in the very slow VA system, and even if the decision is not favorable, at least that means you are able to move forward with your case and determine the next steps that you will take. Today we are going to talk about the structure of the rating decision so you are able to get all the information from it that you need in order to decide what to do next.
The rating decision should also include a cover letter (we refer to this document as the Notice of Action, or NOA). The NOA is important because the date of the NOA is the date that will be used to determine whether a Notice of Disagreement is timely. The NOA also includes a breakdown of the decision made on each issue and boilerplate language from the VA about the appeal process.
The rating decision itself typically includes a short narrative of the veteran’s service and claim history, followed by a list of the decision made on each issue. This is followed by a list of the evidence used to decide the claim. Then the rating decision goes through each issue and discusses whether service connection was granted, and if so, what rating was assigned as well as the effective date for that rating. This is the most important part of the rating decision if a veteran decides to appeal, because it shows what evidence the VA looked at and what the rationale was behind the decision. This can give you a good idea of what your strongest claims are so you can focus on those during an appeal, along with any additional evidence you will need to gather, such as an independent medical opinion. The rating decision is also accompanied by the rating sheet, which shows a history of all the claims ever made by the veteran.