Veterans who are filing a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) should keep a few things in mind when they are preparing to file. We offer five tips for filing a NOD with VA to help veterans get a favorable decision as quickly as possible.
Background: What Is a Notice of Disagreement (NOD)?
A Notice of Disagreement (NOD) is an appeal that veterans can file with VA after they receive an initial rating decision on their claim. Veterans do not have to receive a denial in order to file a NOD; if a veteran was granted service connection, for example, but does not agree with the rating VA assigned for their disability, the veteran can file a NOD asking for a higher rating.
Veterans have one year from the date of the notification letter received with the rating decision to submit a NOD in response to a rating decision. If this year passes and the veteran has not submitted their NOD, VA’s decision becomes final.
Tip #1: File Your NOD on the Correct Form
As of March 2015, VA requires veterans to submit their NOD on a specific VA-issued form called the VA 21-0958 “Notice of Disagreement.” If a veteran does not submit this form, VA will not be prompted to work on the veteran’s case and eventually issue a new decision.
Some veterans may be tempted to submit a statement to VA stating that they disagree with their decision, but this will not be processed by VA as a NOD. Failure to submit a NOD on the proper form could result in VA’s decision becoming final, leaving the veteran without the option to appeal. If a VA decision becomes final, veterans must reopen their claim by submitting new and material evidence.
Tip #2: Do Not Wait to File
As we mentioned, veterans have one year from the date of the date on the notification letter received with the rating decision to submit a NOD. This may seem like a lot of time and some veterans may feel that they can wait to submit their appeal. One thing veterans should keep in mind is that the longer they wait to submit their appeal, the longer they will wait to receive a new decision from VA. In the appeal process, Veterans have deadlines to which they must adhere, but VA does not have deadlines for issuing decisions. If a veteran waits the full year to submit their NOD, VA will only start working on their appeal when they receive it.
Additionally, waiting to file a NOD may result in a veteran missing an important appeal deadline. Sending a NOD in via mail means veterans must account for the time it will take for VA to receive the appeal in the mail, which could take several weeks. When it comes to submitting a NOD, it is best to get it in early so you do not end up accidentally missing the appeal deadline, which could lead to VA’s decision becoming final.
Tip #3: Select Whether You Want a DRO Review or Traditional Review
On the VA Form 21-0958, veterans are asked how they would like their appeal processed: by Decision Review Officer (DRO) Review or Traditional Appellate Review. It is not uncommon for a veteran to miss this section, or not know which type of review to select.
It is important to choose a review process when you submit the form to VA because if you do not, VA will issue a letter asking you which review process you would like to participate in before it begins processing your appeal. This can add delay to your appeal, as VA will have to issue the letter, and once you respond, it will have to process your selection and place you in the appropriate queue to process your appeal.
Tip #4: Be Clear About Why You Disagree
When you think about submitting your NOD, it can be helpful to have a clear idea of what you are disagreeing with and why. A VA rating decision will typically outline why VA either did not grant your claim, or why it assigned a specific disability rating for your condition. This can be a great starting point for formulating your argument and the points with which you disagree.
For a claim for service connection, there are several common reasons VA will deny your claim. It may be helpful for a veteran to pinpoint exactly why VA denied the claim and address that issue specifically. For example, if VA states in its denial that certain evidence was missing, either submit that evidence to VA with your NOD or include in your NOD where that evidence is located and how VA can obtain it.
For claims for an increased rating, VA will outline why they assigned a specific disability rating or why you do not qualify for an increase in your rating. For these types of appeals, veterans should take a look the VA Schedule of Rating Disabilities to look at the criteria for an increased rating for their disability and argue accordingly.
Tip #5: Submit Any Additional Evidence with Your NOD
When a veteran receives an initial rating decision from VA, the decision will typically outline why VA denied your claim, or why it assigned a specific rating for your disability, depending on which type of claim you filed. This can be very useful when it comes to filing an appeal and submitting evidence in support of your claim.
For instance, if VA issues a decision denying service connection for a right knee disability because it was not able to find that the veteran has a diagnosis for a right knee disability, the veteran could submit a NOD with evidence of the diagnosis to address VA’s denial.
In the event that you wish to submit additional evidence to support your claim in response to an initial rating decision, you should consider submitting that evidence with your appeal instead of submitting afterwards. The advantage to submitting evidence with your NOD is that VA will process and review your appeal when it comes up in queue, rather than review your appeal and then wait for you to submit your evidence before processing your appeal.