The Decision Review Officer—DRO—is part of the appeal team at a VA Regional Office. The DRO review can be a way for you to have a higher level VA official review your case and even possibly overturn an unfavorable decision. This process can also mean a faster decision than having to wait on a judgment from the Board of Veterans Appeals. You must specifically choose to have your appeal reviewed by a DRO.
If your VA disability claim is denied and you file a Notice of Disagreement—also known as a NOD—you will be given two choices for appeal. The first option is a traditional appeal to the Bureau of Veterans Affairs and the second option is a review of your claim by the Decision Review Officer. You can select the DRO process, but you have to do so within 60 days of filing a Notice of Disagreement. If the DRO process is not selected within this 60-day time period, your appeal will be decided by the traditional appeal process.
It is our recommendation that you should always choose the DRO review. Why? I can offer you four good reasons. First, the DRO will be a senior claims examiner who has the power to reverse the VA’s denial in whole or part. Second, because they a senior claims examiners, DROs are far more experienced. They have a better knowledge of the governing laws and regulations and have just seen more disability cases. Third, if the DRO review results in even a partial reversal of the VA’s initial findings you will get your benefits a lot sooner than if you appeal to the VA. And, finally, you have nothing to lose. Even if the DRO does not reverse or modify the VA’s original decision, you still have the right to appeal without any major delay in your case.
When you select the DRO review there will be hearing where the DRO will look at all of the evidence on the record and they can also look at any new and material evidence that has come to light since the original VA decision. An alternative to a formal hearing—which can mean waiting longer for a decision—is to ask for an informal conference with the DRO. An informal conference, like a formal hearing, can result in the DRO deciding whether your claim should be granted or denied.
If your claim for VA disability has been denied or you believe the VA has not properly rated your disability, we can help you navigate the appeals process including the DRO review call us at Cuddigan Law for a free, no-obligation evaluation of your case.