How family members and caregivers can help with Veterans’ appeals


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Family members and caregivers play a vital role in supporting their service member, and that support and care continues once a service member reaches Veteran status. While many think this only involves physical/mental care and support, family members and caregivers can also assist their Veterans through the claims and appeals processes by providing invaluable evidence and insight.

(Primer: What is VA compensation? Who is eligible? To receive monthly compensation for a disability or illness caused by or incurred during active service, a Veteran submits a “claim” with their evidence to VA. If a Veteran disagrees with the decision VA makes on the claim, the Veteran has the option to “appeal” the decision to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. In both processes, the evidence requirements are the same.)

Family members and caregivers have a front row seat to see how service-connected disabilities impact not only the Veteran’s life, but the lives of those around them. Maybe you received letters from the Veteran while they were on active duty that described some of the experiences they were having. Maybe you saw their behavior change as a result of what they experienced. Don’t discount your interactions or memories – they may be beneficial as evidence if your Veteran appeals a claim decision.

Your recollections can provide significant information to the Veterans Law Judges (VLJs) at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) to help them better understand what the Veteran has gone through, and how what they are experiencing is affecting their everyday life. This type of evidence may be submitted through a statement of support or recollection, and is known as “lay evidence.”

If your Veteran disagrees with the decision VA made on a claim, and wishes to submit an appeal, you can assist your Veteran by including these lay statements when submitting the appeal.

Remember, you don’t have to be a doctor or healthcare professional to submit a statement in support of a Veteran. Lay evidence is very important for VLJs to fully understand how a Veteran is experiencing daily life, and family members and caregivers can often talk about the changes and impacts easier than the Veteran can. The Board recommends reaching out to your Veteran’s representative to ask about submitting lay evidence in support of your Veteran’s appeal.

For more information on filing appeals please visit www.bva.va.gov and to learn more about the Board’s new virtual tele-hearing technology please click here.


Cheryl Mason is the Chairman of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. 

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Robert David Graham    

    I wonder how many turned down requests end up in simple suicides.

  2. Ranchell Bowman    

    There should be a review on what causes some appeals to occur in the first place — the Quality of the C & P exam. I have been to exams coordinated by VBA’s 3 Vendors/Contractors where the examiner/provider is condescending, they mention your current combined rating as if you don’t deserve an increase and/or shouldn’t be filing new claims, and they have often filled out DBQs inaccurately by not capturing deciding factors/symptoms. Example: Two examiners marked that I had No Xrays & No CTs, when, in fact, the VA had forwarded the Xrays & CTs to them, plus, I brought copies of the reports to the exams. This adversely affected my rating for the conditions.
    They do not ask all the relevant questions on the DBQs and they often copy/paste/type over previously saved forms from other veterans. The examiner doesnt care because they are paid and never have to deal with us concerning the results-we get passed off to the VA to appeal.
    THIS is why removing DBQs from VA website was a serious mistake. I would rather select a provider I feel comfortable with than some random, traveling examiner callously & incorrectly submitting documentation that affects my benefits. They temporarily use offices in the area and then move on to screw up the next veteran’s claim. They don’t represent VBA well, at all.
    Give us back the option to get our DBQs completed at our own expense, just like the Social Security Administration does with IMEs. If it’s discovered that the provider we paid is committing fraud, report them to the AMA. It’s no greater or lesser a risk than VBA/taxpayers paying contractors to pick a random provider and having him/her lie on our DBQs.
    This is why there’s a lack of faith in VA.

  3. Adrien M. Neely    

    Vietnam Veteran has confidential question for Ms. Mason please.
    Thanks.

    1. Adam Stump    

      For more information on filing appeals please visit http://www.bva.va.gov.

Comments are closed.