|Matthew Hill:||Hello and welcome to another Hill and Ponton VA video blog. I’m Matthew Hill here with …|
|Carol Ponton:||Carol Ponton.|
|Matthew Hill:||And we are doing a series on what we see the biggest mistakes that veteran’s make when prosecuting their VA claim. We’ve talked about three already. The first one was not filing the claim because someone else tells you not to. Second one was not filing all the claims that encompass what’s going on with you. So again, if you have a back disability, not filing the legs that have numbness or radiculopathy second to that. The last one we talked about was why not to file reconsideration and instead filing an NOD and today we’re talking about the appeal process more and continuing the appeal.|
|Let’s say you filed that NOD and you are denied. The the regional office issues what’s called statement of the case and Carol what are your thoughts from there?|
|Carol Ponton:||The statement of the case, or we call it an SOC, says that if you disagree then you can file a VA Form 9 and go to the Board of Veterans Appeals in Washington. And I would say 75% of our clients don’t do that. They are afraid of that. They think they have to go to Washington. God, the Board of Appeals sounds scary to them and they drop their claim. That is a big mistake.|
|First of all, the rules that are applied at the regional office are not necessarily the rules that we think are the law. The Board of Veterans Appeals is a whole different area. They try to follow the court and the law that the court puts down.|
|Matthew Hill:||That’s the first time you actually have a lawyer or an actual judge who is bound by the regulations of the VA and bound by the Congress’s statutes in the court cases to actually apply those to your law. The regional office, they don’t … They look at their manual. It tells them how to do things, but that’s not necessarily the same sophistication as you find in the law.|
|Carol Ponton:||And I would say that we get wonderful decisions many times from the Board of Veterans Appeals. They will go give veterans benefits much farther back. They’ll give them much more benefits. It’s a wonderful place to be. The problem is a VA-9 is just a form. You just have to file it and you only have 60 days. That’s another problem. It’s not the year that you think that you are entitled to because the NODs give you a year.|
|Carol Ponton:||So you need to make sure you get it filed in time and you need to make sure you know where to send it. That’s another problem we have with our veterans. And on the form that you get, you will get a statement of the case and they will actually send you usually the form with it to file and tell you exactly where to send it. Okay?|
|That shouldn’t scare you. You don’t have to go to Washington. You can say that you want a hearing in a local VA office, they can do that. You want a hearing, say at the regional office or you don’t want a hearing at all. You just want the court to look at your case.|
|Matthew Hill:||The board.|
|Carol Ponton:||The board.|
|Matthew Hill:||And something that Carol and I have spoken about before is that it’s important to file that and you know, if you don’t want a hearing frankly that will be a faster avenue. But you need to think about why your case was denied. If you think it was denied just because the decision maker wasn’t paying attention, that’s one thing. But if they are telling you there’s a missing piece of evidence, meaning you had the back injury in service. You have a back diagnosis now but there’s no connection, there’s no nexus where a doctor said, “What you have now is related to then.” You are not going to win. So you need to think about what evidence you are going to put in the file to help win.|
|But what I’d say is the farther your case goes up the appeal chain, the more sophisticated of an adjudicator, of a decision maker you are going to encounter. So we always file for the DRO process in the regional office and …|
|Carol Ponton:||So when you are denied initially, you have a choice of the traditional or the Decision Review Officer.|
|Matthew Hill:||At the regional office.|
|Carol Ponton:||And you want to take the Decision Review Officer.|
|Matthew Hill:||And then if you are denied as we’re talking about here by that person, or someone else in the RO, going to the BVA entitles you to a review by a judge. And that’s the first review by a judge that you are going to get. And as we were saying, they know the law. They know the case law, the regulations and they are going to follow it. But you still have to give them the evidence that they need.|
|Carol Ponton:||Right, you have to figure out why are they denying me? Are they denying me because there’s no problem with my back? Or are they denying me because they say what’s wrong with my back is not related to the service? And then you need to go get that evidence.|
|Matthew Hill:||Right. Well that was our big mistake number four which is not appealing to the BVA. Please stay tuned to this channel for the other mistakes and all our other video blogs. Thanks so much.|
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