Once you’ve applied for disability benefits, you must wait for the Department of Veterans Affairs to decide your claim and give you a disability rating. This decision comes in the form of a VA Award Letter. Everything about this letter, including its date, is essential to know. Here’s what you need to know about receiving a VA Award Letter:
What a VA Award Letter Is, and What It Says
A VA Award Letter is a letter you will receive in the mail that provides you with the VA’s decision about your claim for benefits and assigns you a disability rating along with the corresponding monthly compensation amount. The letter also includes details about the decision, including your next steps now that you have been issued a claims decision.
The letter will include a section that lists the conditions you submitted in your claim and the VA’s decision about each condition. If you received an increased rating for a particular condition, the letter will explain that, too.
Along with the disability rating assigned, the letter will also provide the date on which your award is effective. This date is crucial because if you need to file an appeal for the VA’s decision, you only have one year from the date in the letter.
How To Get A Copy of Your VA Award Letter
Because of the important information contained in your VA Award Letter, you should always have a physical copy on file. If you do not receive your letter in the mail, you can request a copy in one of three ways:
- Reach out to your local VA Regional Offices to request a copy
- Ask the advocate or representative assisting with your case to request a copy through the VBMS (Veterans Benefits Management System)
- Access your letter through the VA’s web portal, eBenefits. To use this option, you must be listed in the DEERS (Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System).
How To Appeal The Decision in Your VA Award Letter
If your claim was denied or you are dissatisfied with the rating you were assigned in your VA Award Letter, you do have the right to file an appeal. As we mentioned above, you have one year from the date listed in your letter to file an appeal, after that, the decision is final and cannot be appealed.
Under the recent Appeals Modernization Act (AMA) system, there are three ways you can file for an appeal of your initial rating decision:
The Higher-level Review Lane
A new review will be conducted by a more experienced rating specialist who had no participation in the previous decision.
The Supplemental Claim Lane
You can submit new and relevant evidence (evidence that was not previously recorded when the VA made its decision) in support of your claim.
The Notice of Disagreement Lane
You can appeal your case directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.