You applied a dependency and indemnity compensation claim and were denied. What do you do now? The following four steps will help you appeal this decision.
Take the Time to Understand the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Denial
The first step is to read your denial letter and take the time to understand why you were denied. There are a few reasons that you could be denied:
No Service Connection
The Veteran’s cause of death and their military service may have been determined by the VA to have no connection.
Other Criteria Issues
The person applying does not meet the criteria for death benefits-There are many criteria needing to be met to qualify for DIC or other VA compensation benefits. The VA will deny the surviving spouse, child or parent if the proper paperwork required to establish benefits eligibility is not provided with the claim.
*Note: The VA must assist you in filing for the correct benefits and providing for you precisely what you would need to qualify.
Proof of Marriage and the Period of Living Together
Documentation of being married, living together for the required period, or reasons for not living together need to be filed with the claim, or in response to the VA’s requests for information following having submitted your application for benefits. If the proper documentation is not included or provided after being requested, you will receive a denial.
File Appeal with the Board of Veterans Appeals- Keep It Simple
You have the right to appeal any aspect of a VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation claims decision. However, to keep the claim alive, you must appeal within one year of the decision with a Notice of Disagreement (NOD).
The appeals process has multiple stages and has a continuous open record, meaning submission of new evidence will be accepted at any point during the appeal. However, each submission of new evidence requires review, so if you trickle in additional evidence, you could potentially unduly prolong your appeal.
The best approach for filing a notice of disagreement is covered in the next step.
Instructions for filing your Notice of Disagreement
Whether you choose to use an official VA form to file your Notice of Disagreement, or you opt to write your own, do this: keep it simple!
Do not point out why you think the decision is wrong. You will be able to do that later. The NOD is where you exercise your right to appeal the errors in your denial by the VA. If you are too specific, it could limit the perspective of a DRO or other adjudicator in looking at your claim.
For example, if you say, “I disagree with x because such and such happened on this date.” you are telling the adjudicator to look at a specific piece of evidence and assess whether it fits into the decision differently than someone else already said it does. Whereas if you keep your NOD general – “I disagree with the determination on such and such, I am requesting a DRO review and appeal,” you will get them to look at the entire claim with a second eye. Your one piece of evidence might be correct, but it might have already been considered, and some other aspect of your claim may eventually make the stronger case.
This advice is all very particular and getting into the weeds about strategy, but keeping it simple at this point honestly opens up better avenues for your appeal at later dates.
Here are some thoughts that might help you write an appeal letter for your Dependency and Indemnity Compensation denial:
- Notice of disagreement at the top
- Date of denial letter and ratings decision
- Declare your disagreement with the denial letter and ratings decision
- Declare your intention to appeal
- If you do decide to put any specific decisions you disagree with, include that it is not an exhaustive list. State that you disagree with not only the listed decisions but all decisions in the VA denial letter and rating decision. Be sure to sign the NOD and send it certified mail, return receipt requested, to the regional VA office that sent you the denial and to the location specified in your ratings decision. This will ensure you have proof you met the filing deadline.
Request DRO Hearing
You can request a personal hearing before a Decision Review Officer (DRO) either when you file your NOD or within 60 days of being notified you have the right to a review. It is typically preferable for the simple fact that it gives you more bites at the apple – you get more chances to make your case. Also, it gives you the potential for an informal meeting where you can learn what must be included to get your Dependency and Indemnity Compensation claim approved.
The DRO review begins much quicker than you will receive a hearing from the BVA and is often an excellent way to speed up your appeal without risking the finality of an unfavorable decision. If the DRO decision is unfavorable, you still have the option to have a BVA judge hear your case.