You have been anxiously waiting for the mail to arrive when finally; you receive a letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs. After months, or even years of providing documentation that includes everything under the sun (or so it seems) to support your claim, it is here! Your claim is over and you have received the official notification from the VA of the decision that will likely impact your life either in a positive or negative way. The final question remains…what does all this mean?
The Rating Decision or RD will be stamped with the official seal of the Department of Veterans Affairs and is comprised of the following sections:
- Reasons for Decision
The INTRODUCTION summarizes whether or not your service was during a peacetime or wartime era and will say something like “the records reflect that you are a veteran of such and such era”. It will then go on to state the branch and dates of service, what type of claim you filed, whether it was an initial claim or one that was re-opened and how, and the actual decision on the specific claim or claims in question.
The next section, and the one that veterans deem the most important, is the actual DECISION. This decision is based on the actual conditions for which the veteran requested service connection and whether or not he/she has been approved or denied. If service connection was granted, the “effective date” will be listed along with a rating percentage. This date reflects the date that the VA will be paying back-pay, if any, on the claim.
Like with any official decision, there must be EVIDENCE to support or deny it. The VA should list all of the evidence they used in making their decision; however, they are human and can make errors. It is vital that the veteran read this section carefully to insure that all documentation sent to the VA was used in their determination of approval or denial for service connection. Don’t make any assumptions! The VA is dealing with thousands upon thousands of claims and you would not want an important piece of evidence in support of your claim being omitted.
The next section outlines the REASON(S) FOR THE DECISION and will explain why the specific claim was either approved or denied. Again, read the explanation carefully since it may only be a minor omission of documentation that caused the claim to be denied. In addition, the VA must indicate the rating percentage assigned to the claim and what the next higher rating percentage is for that particular condition. This is important to know since you may already be at the higher level; however, the documentation reviewed did not support that rating or what you need if your condition worsens necessitating an increase in benefits.
Finally, the VA will provide REFERENCES to the Code of Federal Regulations, other regulatory citations, and your rights to appeal their decision. If you need to appeal the decision it is highly recommended that you obtain an experienced advocate, if you have not already done so, to represent you in obtaining the benefits you truly deserve. Don’t lose your turn on the “Wheel of Fortune”.