VA Disability Remand. After a veteran applies for VA benefits, VA must decide to either
- Grant the claim, or
- Deny the claim.
Following a VA decision, the veteran has the right to appeal. If the first appeal fails, a veteran can request review by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (the Board).
In addition to the first 2 decision options (to grant or to deny), the Board may decide to remand. When the Board issues a remand, it is ordering the VA Regional Office to take specific action to develop the claim. Unfortunately, most of VA’s appeals backlog involves remands.
For many veterans, it takes longer than 2 years for VA to issue a new decision after a Board remand. For most veterans, the goal is to turn a remand into a grant. That is exactly what we do here at Disability Help Group. Keep reading for more information on VA Disability Remands.
Which VA agencies are involved?
VA Disability Remands involve a maze of different decision-makers. To understand VA Disability Remands, one should first understand the different agencies involved.
- VA Regional Offices. Claims start at the Regional Office level. There are 57 Regional Offices, most of which are based in the United States.At this level, VA Rating Specialists usually decide the claims. If the Rating Specialist denies the claim or grants it with an inappropriate rating, the veteran can file an appeal. More experienced VA decision-makers, such as Decision Review Officers, usually process these appeals.
- Board of Veterans’ Appeals.If the first appeal is unsuccessful, then the veteran has the right to appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. The Board, which is based in Washington, D.C., is a superior tribunal of VA law judges. The Board reviews appeals of decisions issued by the Regional Offices. At this level, VA law judges (instead of local bureaucrats) make the decisions.
What is a Remand?
Put simply, a remand is an order from a superior agency to a lower one. The lower agency has no choice; it must comply with the remand order. In the VA disability system, the most common type is a remand from the Board to the Regional Office.
While it is not a final decision, a Board remand is binding on the Regional Office.
Why would the Board issue a Remand instead of a Grant or Denial?
There are 3 main reasons:
- The Regional Office did a really bad job. Often, the Regional Office fails to meet its duty to assist veterans in accordance with the law. They may have failed to provide a medical exam, misinterpreted a regulation, or ignored favorable evidence. Because of these failures, the claim lacks evidence the Board could rely on to grant. To addressthese failures, the Board uses remands to spell out how the Regional Office can make up for them. After the Regional Office complies with the Remand, it must issue a new decision.
- New evidence is introduced. Let’s say the Regional Office denied a PTSD claim because there was no medical nexus. During an appeal to the Board, the veteran submitted a private medical nexus opinion. Because the Board is strictly an appellate tribunal, it cannot consider new evidence in the first instance. In this situation, the Board must remand the case for the Regional Office to consider the new nexus opinion.
- Your disability gets much worse. In an appeal involving a request for a higher rating, the disability may get worse while the veteran waits for the Board’s decision. The Board is likely to remand for a new VA medical exam if that last exam was over 2 years ago. Rather than rely on an old exam, the Board may order a new one that reflects the current disability.
What are the Pros and Cons of a Board Remand?
- As a matter of law, veterans have the right to compliance with the Board’s remand order. This means that the Regional Office cannot ignore the order and issue another denial.
- It preserves the earliest effective date for the claim. For example, let’s say a veteran filed a claim in February 2012. He appealed his case all the way to the Board, which issued a remand order in December 2019. If the Regional Office grants the case on remand, then the benefits will be effective February 2012.
- Board remands represent the largest backlog of appeals at most Regional Offices. VA is slow to process them.
- If the Regional Office issues a decision on remand without complying with the Board’s order, then the Board will likely remand the case again. This could drag the case out even longer.
An experienced representative can make all the difference. Take the example of W.F., a DHG client who served in the Marine Corps.
In October 2012, he filed a claim for multiple orthopedic disabilities. In June of 2013, VA denied his claim for lack of a medical nexus. Although he met the criteria, VA failed to provide a medical exam. On his own, he appealed his case all the way to the Board. While he waited for a decision, W.F. submitted new evidence from his private doctor. In October 2017, the Board remanded his case with the following instructions to the Regional Office:
- Associate the new medical evidence with the file,
- Schedule the veteran for a VA medical exam, and
- Re-adjudicate the claim.
Shortly after the remand order, W.F. hired DHG. First, we regularly urged the Regional Office to comply with the remand. Next, we developed a private medical opinion to satisfy the medical nexus element. As a result, the Regional Office granted the claim in full effective October 2012.
Do you need help with your VA disability remand? The experts at DHG are ready to help. Call for a free consultation.
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