Many veterans have been disappointed by the infamous Veterans Affairs (VA) decision letter for disability compensation. A denial at the end of your decision letter may feel like a defeat, but if you're legitimately suffering from issues caused by military service, your problem is more administrative than anything. Don't give up; by understanding the VA claim system's habits and expectations, you could get closer to an appeal approval.

Are Appeals Possible?

Appeals are not only possible, they're encouraged. The VA system can be difficult to navigate, and it's understandable that a veteran--especially a veteran suffering to a debilitating condition--may have problems getting the claim just right.

The VA claim system doesn't often deny claims because of a missing page or not turning in the proper paperwork. Often, the local VA facility will call or mail a letter asking for the correct information, although there are exceptions for every state's VA facility. Many denials occur because the claim doesn't seem to be about a service-connected injury that is still a problem.

In order to filter out fraudulent veteran claims, the VA subjects claims to a service-connected test. To be classified as service-connected, your condition must have been caused by military service or made significantly more severe because of military service.

You may not have enough evidence to show that your problem was caused by military service, such as lacking medical reports or not having enough information in medical reports. You may have evidence of a past issue, but it may not be obvious that you're still suffering. Because mistakes happen, the VA is more than willing to allow you to appeal the decision with new, relevant information. 

As listed in this PDF document from the VA, you have one year from the decision letter's listed date to file an appeal. This doesn't mean that you need to have all of your information ready for a complete success; you simply need to let the VA know that you intend to appeal, then begin submitting information. From there, extensions and extra considerations can be made if you cooperate.

Whatever you do, don't throw away the information and start over. With VA wait times continuing to be a problem, you'll simply be at the back of the claim line if you wait longer than a year.

Understanding Service-Connected Conditions

To be clear, VA disability compensation is only for veterans who were injured or affected by a condition during military service. If your injury happened after military service, the VA can still help you with medical assistance depending on your eligibility for health benefits, but disability is not for you.

If your problem began during military service, it may be obvious to you. Unfortunately, the VA can't take your word for it. Consider a few examples to see the issue:

A veteran breaks her leg during military service. Although she continues to serve and is discharged honorably, she has a limp and continuing pains that makes work difficult. Unfortunately, when her leg was broken, there was no medical administrative team, and her injury wasn't documented. A personal injury lawyer and medical team may be needed to discover how long ago the injury occurred and how much of a problem it is now.

Another example: A veteran experiences traumatizing events of death and destruction during his military service. Unfortunately, the events experienced were not in war zones--or the area wasn't declared a war zone until after he left the military. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a possible problem, but it is difficult to prove. Mental evaluation is necessary.

Both of these examples are difficult to prove, but are still real problems that veterans face every day. To enhance your case and to design an appeal that has organized evidence, contact a lawyer in your area.