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There are no claim shortcuts, use your VSO

Is there a shortcut to winning a VA claim?

The short answer to this question is an unequivocal “No!”

A successful service-connected disability claim is based on three ingredients:

1. Current evidence of a medical condition.

2. Evidence of a possible causation in military service.

3. A connection between the two, referred to as a “Nexus.”

If all three of the above are documented in the claimant’s favor, that person will most likely win the case. Proof of all three submitted at the time of original claim will usually result in a ruling on the case in the shortest possible time.

The VA advises it is usually in the claimant’s best interests to file a claim through a Veterans Service Officer. In addition to filling out the proper VA forms for a certain claim, a trained and experienced VSO will also know how to “word” certain elements of the claim, know what the VA is looking for in minute details that can be the difference in winning or losing the claim. A VSO will also know where to look or how to obtain certain bits of information in support of the claim, the claimant might not know about. This is gained through years of VSO training and experience.

The VA has really speeded up its ruling, or “adjudication” processes of claims the past year or two from what it used to be. I’ve been getting winning claims back from the VA in as little as two to three months from the time of filing.

In fact, they are getting so fast at claims decisions that I have actually submitted “additional information in support of claim” shortly after filing the original claim and the new information wasn’t received in time to be considered in the claim. When this happens, the claim must go through a process of appeal, which can add sometimes as much as a year or two to finally resolving the case in favor of the claimant.

The case for submitting a complete, well documented, “well grounded” claim still holds true. Because of this, I usually advocate to gather all of the information together for the claim before actually filing the claim. It then becomes a “fully developed” claim and can be decided on by the VA in the shortest possible time, without any additional or further claim development. It’s all in one neat package.

The VA has certain guidelines and rules in deciding a case. It must allow sufficient time for the claimant to submit additional information in support of the claim. It must allow sufficient time for the claimant to respond to all information gathering questions from the VA. All of this takes time, adding months, sometimes years, to the final ruling on the claim. And, of course, if the ruling is not in the claimant’s favor, the case usually goes to the appeals process for a second opinion, which can sometimes add a year or two additional to the whole process.

There are some veterans advocates that will try to circumvent the VA claims process by trying to “bully” the VA into ruling in favor of the claim. Accusing the VA of incorrectly considering the evidence; or failure and negligence in deciding the case. Sometimes an advocate will file letters and documents through members of Congress to try to leverage a ruling in favor of the client. It doesn’t work! You can’t intimidate or force a VA claims caseworker into deciding a claim in favor of the claimant. In fact, I’m sure there are strict laws regulating such matters.

The short of it is … following the VA’s own guidelines for filing a claim is the shortest and fastest possible route to a successful ruling in favor of the claimant. If the evidence supports the claim, the claim will be successful. If it doesn’t, it won’t!

DAV vans

The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization is running a VAHC van from Durango on Tuesdays and Thursdays, call (505) 239-2769, and from the Farmington area on Mondays and Wednesdays, call (505) 793-2915 or (505) 325-4775.

Durango VA Clinic

The Durango VA Outpatient Clinic is located at 1970 E. 3rd Ave., Durango, CO 81301 (the old Mercy Medical Center). The phone?number is?(970) 247-2214.

Further information

For information on these and other veteran’s benefits, please call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office located at the Senior Center in the Pagosa Springs Community Center on Hot Springs Blvd. The office number is 264-4013, the fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-6648, and e-mail is afautheree@archuletacounty.org.

The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for application for VA programs, and for filing in the VSO office.

A reminder

I will be out of the office from March 14 through March 25 on family medical leave. You can call 264-4013 and leave a message, and I will return your call when I get back.

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