Some veterans are unaware that they may reopen a disability compensation claim that has been denied by the Department of Veteran Affairs. In this blog post, I will explain to you what you need to reopen a previously denied claim.
What is the Difference Between a New Claim and a Reopened Claim?
At the outset, it is important to understand the difference between a new claim and a reopened claim. Generally, a new claim is one that has never been filed with the VA before. There are some special exceptions, such as claims for an increased disability evaluation, special monthly compensation, and a claim for total disability based on individual unemployability. However, a majority of claims will either fall under new or reopened status, depending on whether a decision has become final.
How do I know if I received a Final Decision?
A decision becomes final if it is not appealed within the appealable deadline. For rating decisions, you must file a Notice of Disagreement, VA Form 21-0958, within one year of the date of the rating decision. If you filed a Notice of Disagreement and received a Statement of the Case, you have sixty (60) days from the date of the Statement of the Case to file a Form 9, Appeal to Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Finally, if you have received a Board decision, you have 120 days to file your appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. If you fail to file your appeal within the required timeline, your decision will become final.
How Can I Reopen a Claim?
Fortunately for many veterans, a final decision may be reopened at any time, provided the veteran produces new and material evidence.
What is New and Material Evidence?
- New evidence can best be described as evidence the VA has not considered in any previous denial. This is a very low threshold, and must only raise a reasonable possibility of substantiating the claim. Examples could include new medical records, new scientific journal articles, or buddy statements provided by fellow service members or family members.
- Material evidence is evidence that is relevant to and has a direct bearing on the claimed disability.
As long as the evidence is not inherently untrue or false, the VA must presume that the newly submitted evidence is credible.
It is important to note that even if the VA reopens your claim, it does not necessarily mean you are entitled to compensation benefits. You still must prove the three required elements:
- You have a current diagnosed disability;
- There was an in-service event or occurrence leading to your disability; and
- There is a nexus between the in-service event and your current disability.
What is the Effective Date of a Reopened Claim?
If you are ultimately granted the disability benefits you deserve, the effective date will not be backdated to the date you originally filed for the disability. In most cases, the effective date will be the date you either submitted an intent to file or the date you submitted your request to reopen your previously denied claim.
If you feel you may have new and material evidence to reopen a previously denied claim, or you need assistance in gathering new and material evidence, a skilled veteran’s law attorney can help you obtain the evidence and compensation you earned. We only charge a fee if your appeal is successful.
Do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Whitcomb, Selinsky, PC or its disability arm, Rocky Mountain Disability Law Group to obtain the assistance you need. Our conveniently located Denver office can be reached at (303) 534-1958 or by completing a quick and convenient online form.