Reopening a VA disability claim.

The best possible outcome for any disabled veteran is to obtain the benefits they are entitled to at the earliest date. However, in dealing with the VA that doesn’t always happen, so reopening a claim can be a viable option. The critical 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 judgment process or that the time to appeal has expired without an appeal being filed.  If a claim is final, the "do over" of reopening a case is a way for a vet to correct deficiencies in their prior claim that lead to the denial. There is no time limit to reopen a prior claim.

Technically there are only three types of reopened claims: claims for a service connected disability, claims filed by a surviving family for service connected death benefits, and 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, you must submit "new" and "material" evidence such as medical tests or a doctor’s evaluation. Evidence is new if it was not previously submitted to the VA in the claim that you are trying to reopen. Evidence is material if it establishes a necessary fact to substantiate your 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 whether to reopen the claim, the VA is supposed to consider both your old evidence in the claim file and the new and material evidence.  

 Unfortunately the effective date, or the date in the past that the VA will pay you back pay benefits, is the filing date of the reopening claim not the date of the original claim. Contact us at Cuddigan Law if you want to know more about reopening your disability compensation claim and for a free evaluation of your case.
Sean D. Cuddigan
SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska