|Matthew Hill:||Hello and welcome to the Hill & Ponton,VA video blog. I’m Matthew Hill.|
|Carol Ponton:||Carol Ponton.|
|Matthew Hill:||Today we want to talk to you about decisions from the Board of Veteran’s Appeals, and just to put the Board of Veteran’s Appeals where they are in the VA, first you file a claim at the local regional office. They make a decision, you file an appeal. They make another decision and then you appeal again. At that point it goes to Washington to the Board of Veteran’s Appeals, also known as the BVA. When the BVA makes a decision, one of three things happens. It’s either a grant, denial, or a remand. What we want to talk about today is the difference between a grant and a denial.|
|Carol Ponton:||A grant means they’re going to give you some benefit. Say, you had not been service connected for PTSD. They will say, “I find the veteran service connected for PTSD.” It goes back to the regional office for them to effectuate that. What does that mean? Well, you’re granted service connection, but what’s your rating? What’s the start date? The regional office has to make additional decisions and then send out a rating decision.|
|Matthew Hill:||That’s key, because if you fought for three years, five years, seven years to get PTSD we’ll say service connected, and the BVA says, “We service connect this,” well then the real money if you will is back when it goes to the regional office and they get to give you a rating. They give you a rating of 30% going back seven years, that’s a huge difference between 30 or 70 or 100. The same thing is the effective date, as Carol said. If you’ve been fighting for seven years but somehow they only give you a two year retro, that’s …|
|Carol Ponton:||Which we find a lot, or a one year retro. I had a veteran who had had a stroke and they gave him 10% back one year. He was entitled to 100% back 20 years. You really need to watch. Just because the regional office makes a decision on the remand that doesn’t mean they do it correctly. You need to …|
|Matthew Hill:||Or the grant.|
|Carol Ponton:||The grant, right.|
|Matthew Hill:||It’s winning the battle and losing the war. You win the battle of service connection, yet it’s sent back to the regional office which had denied you twice, and they low ball you on the rating, or they short change you on the effective date. That’s what to watch out for in a grant.|
|Carol Ponton:||You have to appeal that. Okay?|
|Matthew Hill:||Yeah, you appeal it all the way back up. Now, you will see in the BVA decision it should specifically say, “A grant of service connection for PTSD.” If you’re already awarded PTSD then it would say, “A grant of 70% for PTSD.” If you see that it’s a specific rating, you know you’re going to get that rating when you go back. What would you watch out for there?|
|Carol Ponton:||I’d watch out for the effective date.|
|Carol Ponton:||Unless the VA says, “Effective this date,” the BVA says that, then the regional office has the opportunity to decide what date they think is correct. We find that they under-provide rather than over-provide benefits. You need to be really careful. A lot of people think, “Well this is what the BVA said so I can’t appeal it.” That’s not true. The BVA only said probably, you’re service connected. It was up to the regional office to make those other two decisions.|
|Matthew Hill:||The BVA specifically says, “We can’t in the first instance,” meaning after it’s service connected, “We can’t in the first instance make the determination on rating or effective date.”|
|Matthew Hill:||Let’s transition now to remands. How do you see, what’s the difference between a remand and a grant?|
|Carol Ponton:||First of all, the vast majority of what the BVA does is remand. You’re more likely to see a remand than anything else. Remand is saying, “We need something more done. We need you to get more evidence, we need you to send the veteran out for a compensation of pension exam, we need you to obtain service medical records.” They direct the regional office to do a number of things. If you have a grant, usually that grant is effectuated, in other words you get a rating decision within two or three months.|
|If you have a remand you could be looking at two or three years. You have to be really careful because these get lost. Say that the BVA said, “I’m going to remand you on four issues.” You may end up in three years getting a decision on one issue. You need to make sure that, you’re going to have to write in and get them to move. This happens quite frequently on a number of the BVA remands. VA is overwhelmed with paperwork. It’s really easy to lose things. It is your claim; you’ve got to pay attention to what they’re not doing.|
|Matthew Hill:||What she’s saying there is, you don’t want them to get lost in that crease or gap between what the BVA’s doing and what the regional office is doing. Unfortunately a lot of claims do get lost in there. Regional office will say, “Oh, we never got the paperwork,” or they’ll say as Carol said, working on all this other stuff. Remand is, you know it’s not a loss, but you still need to be on your toes. They’re sending it back for certain evidence. You want to get a copy of that evidence and respond to it so that it goes back up to the BVA with the most favorable light as possible.|
|Carol Ponton:||This is wonderful because it gives you a chance to, somehow you didn’t get the benefits you want. This gives you a chance to do that. Remember, the BVA is saying, “I want to see all this evidence.” You can’t rely on the VA to collect that evidence for you, even though they’re directed to do that. Let me give you an instance. Say you have a private orthopedic doctor who’s been treating you. They want, the BVA wants to see those records. The VA will write a letter to the private doctor and say, “Send me those records, but I’m not going to pay for them.” Most private doctors want to be paid.|
|Those records will never end up in the file and the VA will just show two letters to the doctor and nobody responded. You need to go out and get all the evidence that’s favorable and put it in. Send it in to the VA and make sure they have it. When you see the decision that the VA makes, make sure that evidence shows up there. This is also a chance maybe to go out to your doctor and get the additional evidence which the BVA feels is missing, like what was the range of motion, or do you have a problem with instability for your knee. This is a chance to get that proof for your case.|
|Matthew Hill:||Thank you for joining us. We hope to see you soon again on this space.|
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