Important Change in the VA Claims Process
Attention all veterans – if you have filed or are planning to file a claim with the Veterans Administration (VA) for service-connected disability or compensation, the VA has recently announced an important policy change with regard to the filing of a Notice of Disagreement. The policy decision as announced in the Federal Register is here. It is absolutely critical for veterans who are trying to obtain VA benefits to know about this mandatory change by the VA with regard to the filing of a Notice of Disagreement.
If you receive an adverse Regional Office (RO) decision from the VA Regional Office denying your VA claim in whole or in part, the first initial step in the appeal process is to file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). For any appeal, the filing of a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) is mandatory and cannot be avoided if you want to proceed with appellate review of your claim.
As a result, when a veteran/claimant is denied VA benefits that the veteran/claimant thinks he or she should receive, it is absolutely mandatory and necessary for a veteran/claimant to timely file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) as soon as possible with the Regional Office that issued the adverse decision to him or her.
Deadline to File Notice of Disagreement
The deadline to file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) is very important; it is within one year from the date of the mailing of the VA notice to the veteran/claimant of the adverse decision. The date on the letter notifying the veteran/claimant of the decision is considered the date of mailing of the notice. As a result, it is absolutely critical for a veteran/claimant who is trying to get his or her VA disability benefits that a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) is submitted as soon as possible. If the one year statute of limitations in which to file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) is missed, then the veteran/claimant will be unable to pursue that particular claim on appeal. In other words, if the deadline is missed, the Regional Office decision becomes final and unappealable. As a result, it is absolutely critical that anyone who wants to pursue an appeal of denial by the Regional Office submit his or her Notice of Disagreement (NOD) as soon as possible after receiving the initial decision and, in any case, no later than one year after the date of the letter.
Notice of Disagreement Form
Prior to this change being announced by the VA, it used to be that a simple letter to the VA entitled “notice of disagreement” would suffice. I have posted previous information at our blog regarding what a notice of disagreement used to look like prior to this change.
This is no longer the case! Effective March 24, 2015, the VA is requiring that all notices of disagreement be submitted on a VA Form 21-0958-ARE (NOD) attached here. Our advice to all of our veteran clients is to ALWAYS use this new NOD form for ALL NODs that are filed by any veteran to any VA decision starting March 1, 2015 and for all time forward. Veterans must fill this form out completely in detail with specificity regarding all of the VA decisions and aspects that they disagree with as set forth in the rating decision. Failure to timely disagree with ANY aspect of the decision will mean that the claim decision if FINAL and UNAPPEALABLE!
Once a veteran has fully completed the Notice of Disagreement (NOD) form, please make sure it is dated and signed by the veteran and then make a copy of the completed form for your file. Then, make sure you mail the original signed form by certified mail, return receipt requested, which you can get from any U.S. post office. The completed form should be mailed to one of the two centralized VA Evidence Intake Centers, either to P.O. Box 4444, Newnan, Georgia 30271-0020 or P.O. Box 4444, Janesville, Wisconsin 53547-4444. The rating decision will include an attached sheet entitled Where to Send Your Written Correspondence and you can find the correct address where you should mail your NOD based on the location of your residence. By sending the Notice of Disagreement (NOD) by certified mail, return receipt, you can verify with absolute accuracy that the VA did, in fact, timely receive your notice of disagreement. Keep a copy of the green card that will be returned to you once the VA receives it and staple it to the copy of your NOD form so that you have a complete file of what you sent to the VA. Of course, always keep a copy of everything you send to the VA and everything that you receive from the VA.