Reopening Prior Claims is a Powerful Tool in Obtaining the Benefits a Veteran is Entitled

The best possible choice for any veteran is to obtain the benefits you are entitled to at the earliest date.  However in dealing with the VA that is not always possible and the reopening claims procedure is useful.  The threshold question is whether the  prior claim is final. As used in this context final means the claim has been appealed to the highest level possible in the VA adjudicatory process or that the time to appeal has expired without an appeal being filed. This is different procedure from and should not be confused with filing an increase rating for benefits. This "do over" is an important advantage to veterans to correct deficiencies in the prior claim that let to the denial. There is no time limit to reopen a prior claim.

Technically there are only three types of reopened claims: (1) claims for services connection of veteran's disability; (2) claims filed by a surviving family for service connection for death benefits and (3) claims for burial benefits. Claims for increased disability ratings or non service connected pension benefits are new claims not reopened claims.

To reopen a claim, the veteran must submit "new" and "material" evidence. Evidence is new if was not previously submitted to the VA in the claim that the veteran is attempting to reopen. Evidence is material if it establishes a necessary fact to substantiate the claim. Procedurally the VA is supposed to consider the new and material evidence before making a decision to reopen the claim. In making the decision to whether to reopen the claim the VA is suppose to consider both the old evidence in the claim file and the new and material evidence.  The new and material evidence should not be cumulative of the prior evidence and should raise a reasonable probability of proving the claim.

Unfortunately the effective date for benefits is the date of filing the reopening claim not the original claim. For more information about reopening disability compensation claims, contact Sean or Tim Cuddigan  at (402) 933 5405. Cuddigan law serves veterans in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Colorado, Missouri and South Dakota.

Sean D. Cuddigan
SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska