Preparation for Decision in VA Claims: What It Means
Preparation for Decision is one of the final stages of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) standard claims process. During Preparation for Decision, the VA Regional Office prepares documentation showing a decision recommendation for a veteran’s claim.
Read on for more information about Preparation for Decision in VA claims, what it means, and how to navigate VA’s claims and appeals process.
What Is Preparation for Decision?
After filing a VA disability claim, claimants are entered into VA’s standard claim process. This is in the process in which VA will review a veteran’s claim for decision. The stages of the claims process include:
- Claim Received
- Initial Claim Review
- Gathering of Evidence
- Preparation for Decision
- Pending Decision Approval and Preparation for Notification
- Claim Complete
Again, Preparation for Decision is one of the final stages of VA’s standard claims process. During Preparation for Decision, the VA Regional Office prepares documentation showing a decision recommendation. From there, a VA employee reviews the decision recommendation for final decision.
Essentially, this is the stage after VA finishes initially reviewing the claim and gathering additional evidence and before VA finalizes the claim decision.
How Long Does Preparation for Decision Take?
Preparation for Decision is one of the last stages of the claims process. It means all the evidence has been collected, and the claimant must now wait for VA to issue its decision — either granting, denying, or partially granting the claim.
While VA does not specify how long Preparation for Decision takes, they currently provide an estimate for the average number of days VA takes to complete a claim. The time it takes VA to decide a veteran’s claim depends on the following factors:
- The type of claim filed (e.g., initial claim for service connection, TDIU, Dependency and Indemnity compensation, etc.),
- How many conditions were claimed and how complex they are, and
- How long it takes VA to gather evidence.
Is Preparation for Decision a Good Sign?
Preparation for decision is a good sign because it means VA has gathered and reviewed all the evidence on file (generally the longest stage of the process) and is gearing up to issue a final decision on your claim.
However, at this stage, you still do not know whether VA will grant or deny your claim. From here, you can only wait for a decision from VA.
How to Track Your Claim Status
To track your claim status during the standard review process, you can sign in with your existing Login.gov, ID.me, DS Logon, or MyHealtheVet account. If you don’t have any of these accounts, you can create a free Login.gov or ID.me account.
Once logged in, you can find a list of your claims, decision reviews, and appeals. You can check the statuses in the list or select a claim to review the full details.
How to Speed Up Your Claim
While it is difficult to predict how long a VA claim decision can take, there are a few ways to avoid any delays in the process and move your case faster. Here are a few tips to help speed up your claim before reaching the Preparation for Decision stage:
- File your claim online: Generally, filing a VA claim online is the fastest and most convenient way to apply for disability compensation. Electronic records can be processed using a variety of automated tools, allowing VA to complete certain tasks with greater speed.
- Provide as much evidence as possible with your initial claim: Veterans should submit evidence proving service connection with their initial claim. By submitting documents upfront, veterans will likely prevent VA from engaging in a lengthy evidence-gathering process.
- Do not submit irrelevant information: While it is advantageous to submit evidence upfront, submitting only relevant VA is required to review every piece of evidence a veteran submits, and unnecessary documents may slow the review process.
- Respond quickly and thoroughly to any requests for documentation: If VA requests certain documents (e.g., treatment records, employment history, etc.) at this stage of the claims process, submit the records directly to VA to save time. While VA does have a duty to retrieve the records, if the veteran can access them directly, it can help accelerate the process.
- Attend Your C&P Exam: VA usually schedules a Compensation and Pension examination to evaluate the veteran’s condition before issuing a decision. To avoid delays or denials, veterans should attend all scheduled VA exams.
- Get assistance from a VA-accredited representative: VA-accredited attorneys or representatives are individuals recognized by VA as legally authorized and capable of assisting claimants in pursuit of benefits. A representative can handle communication with VA and ensure all documentation is submitted on time, as well as represent veterans during an appeal.
For more information on making the claims process move faster, check out What Can I Do to Make the VA Disability Process Go Faster.
Is My Claim Eligible to Be Expedited?
It is important to note that there are several situations in which veterans may be eligible to have their VA claims expedited.
- Extreme Financial Hardship or Homelessness: Veterans can request to expedite a VA disability claim if they are experiencing extreme financial hardship, or if they are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless.
- Advanced Age: If a veteran is over a certain age, they can request to have a claim expedited. The age requirement for expediting a veteran’s claim or appeal is different at the VA Regional Office level and the Board level. Specifically, at the Regional Office, a veteran must be 85 years of age or older whereas at the Board, a veteran must be 75 years of age or older.
- Terminally Ill: VA is instructed to prioritize claims in which the veteran is terminally ill. Veterans must submit evidence of a terminal illness in order for VA to expedite the claim.
Unfortunately, there is no way to predict how much faster a claim will be decided when it is expedited, but VA employees are instructed to handle “priority” claims before “non-priority” claims. Nonetheless, expedited claims still enter a queue of other expedited claims, meaning veterans will still have to wait in line.
Was Your Claim Denied?
If your VA claim was denied, it is not the end of the road. You have the option to appeal the decision and secure the benefits to which you are entitled. Our team of accredited representatives at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick may be able to assist you with the appeals process. Call us today at 800-544-9144 or submit our online form for a free case evaluation.
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