Upon reading a VA’s rating decision, the veteran may feel like they have lost the battle. However, these decisions often contain many errors that a veteran can bring up on appeal. In other words, the errors made by the VA in a rating decision may mean the battle isn’t really over.
Pursuant to the duty to notify, the VA is required to tell a veteran what evidence is necessary to prove their claim, but sometimes the VA fails to provide this required notice. The notification requirement applies to all claims that were pending on, or filed after November 9, 2000. If a veteran did not receive the required notification, they may be able to appeal an unfavorable decision. However, in order to do so, the veteran will have to show that the VA’s failure to provide notification harmed their case. For example, the veteran will have to show that they would have provided evidence that helps their claim had they known this evidence was needed.
Similarly, if the VA did not follow their duty to assist, a veteran may be able to appeal their decision. If a veteran has done their job of identifying records that support their claim to the VA, then the VA must help the veteran get those records. A veteran must provide enough information about when and where they were treated that would reasonably allow the VA to locate the records. Also, pursuant to the VA’s duty to assist, they may have to provide the veteran with a medical exam or medical opinion. Failure to do so is an error that can be appealed. The VA is required to provide an exam when there isn’t enough medical evidence in the veteran’s file, but there is: evidence the veteran has a current disability, evidence that the veteran experienced an in service event, and evidence that this in service event might have caused the current disability. Another related error is if the VA did not provide an acceptable medical exam. To be acceptable, the exam must be made by a doctor that is knowledgeable in the type of disability making up the veteran’s claim. Also, the doctor must explain their reasoning in detail about whether the disability is linked to service.
Lastly, a veteran with a claim in front of the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) may need an attorney to make sure the BVA properly addressed medical or lay evidence in their claim. The BVA is required to include a discussion of the facts of a veteran’s claim, and also include a discussion about the law that the decision is based on. Failure to do so, may be a basis for appeal.