You researched what to do. You started your claim or appeal. You gathered your medical records. You searched for your military records. You went to every doctor’s visit and C&P exam. You described your condition over and over again. You submitted your claim. And now you’re just waiting. Again.
What’s described above is the bare minimum of what comes before a veteran receives their rating decision letter from the VA.
A decision letter is a notification from the VA that grants or denies disability claims or appeals.
Waiting to receive a decision letter can produce a lot of anxiety for a veteran. Sometimes years have gone by since a veteran started his or her claim and it all comes down to what the rating decision letter says.
When Will My Decision Letter Come?
The VA does NOT have any time limits to meet when it comes to getting rating decision letters out the door and in the mailbox. Therefore, it could take weeks, months, or years to receive your decision letter. It all depends on the VA.
In November of 2019, the average disability claim was completed in about 85 days.
There are ways for you to check your claim status to have a better assumption of when your decision letter will come. Your claim will go through the following process:
- Initial review
- Evidence gathering, review, and decision
- Preparation for notification
- Claim Complete
You can view the status of your claim by going to your “My VA” dashboard using your DS Logon, MyHealtheVet, or ID.me login. Next, scroll down to the “track claim” button. After clicking here, you will see any open claims or appeals. Click “view status” on any specific claim to see what the status is.
You should also be able to see an estimated date for when the VA expects to have your rating decision letter mailed to you. Keep in mind that many veterans report changes to this date, so expect to see delays.
Let’s break down important aspects in a decision rating letter. After waiting all this time, it’s essential that you know what to expect from VA’s ratings.
Accepted Rating Decision Letters from the VA
If your claim was accepted, the VA’s decision letter lists the reasons why they assigned your ratings. It will also show you what conditions you need to have (and prove) to receive the next higher percentage rating.
Your decision letter should ideally list everything to help you identify and understand what’s going on. This may include references to the Schedule of Rating Disabilities found in the 38 CFR Book C from the Veterans Benefits Administration.
Denied Rating Decision Letters
In the same fashion, if the VA denies your claim, your rating decision documents should explain why the VA made that decision.
Some recent rating decisions outline what evidence the VA used, which lets you know if there was anything that the VA found (or didn’t find) in their records. This piece of information can be particularly vital if you decide to appeal the VA’s decision.
Separate Award Document Section
Your rating decision is normally re-assembled into a separate award document section. It’s this award section that explains the monetary amount (if any) you will receive as the result of your newly accepted claim.
Why should you double-check the separate award section?
Approved Claims Don’t Always Equal More Compensation
It’s a fact: Having a newly accepted claim may not mean an increase in VA disability compensation. Your petition may be granted as service-connected, but be rated at zero.
This isn’t a bad thing though! Now the VA recognizes that your condition is related to your time in service so you have one step down.
The next step is proving the severity of your condition and time will usually do the trick for you. Be patient and before you know it, your medical records will show how your condition has worsened.
Another way your rating decision letter doesn’t permit a compensation raise is with the VA’s math system. If the additional rating they give you isn’t enough to push you to the next level of compensation, then your disability pay will remain the same.
For example, if you are already compensated at 60%, adding another 10% is not going to put you into the next payment bracket of 70%.
Important Information You Need From Your Rating Decision Letter
In the VA’s rating decision letter, you’ll also see your ‘one-year date.’ This date is an important one to know if you wish to file a notice of disagreement (NOD) and appeal the VA’s decision.
You can appeal the VA’s decision to deny your claim(s), or challenge the rating they assigned each accepted claim. If you choose to do this, your ‘one-year’ date becomes the critical deadline to file your appeal.
Knowing the reasons why the VA came to their decision becomes key to reversing their findings. If you know the ‘why’ and can address the issue by adding new information, then you are in a much better position to have your claim decision reversed.
Waiting for your rating decision letter can feel a lot like waiting for test results. You understand how your condition affects your life, but until the VA recognizes it, you might feel short-changed for the sacrifices you’ve made.
Or you may be under a lot of pressure to receive your rating decision letter due to financial or physical hardships. Maybe you just need help, but you don’t know where to go or who to trust.
If you need someone to trust, give us a call at Strategic Veteran. We are a veteran-run company aiming to share our knowledge and experience with the VA system.
We’ve hassled with our claims and we just want to help you with yours. Our educational services and one-on-one advice is always free. Call us today at 800-761-9004.