A disabled veteran, attorney Josh Grubaugh has navigated the disability appeals process himself and understands his clients’ confusion and frustration. Not only was Josh successful in representing himself in front of VA, but he has helped numerous veterans. Josh works hard on reading through the medical records and claims file, and often finds relevant records VA examiners and decision makers overlooked. Josh has also found, surprisingly, that often times the veteran has highlighted some of these same records, but for whatever reason VA has ignored the veteran’s communications.
As a Master Resiliency Trainer in the Army, Josh uses keen listening skills when working with his clients, but also knows how to communicate assertively, and not over aggressively, with impartial decision makers to ensure his client’s interests are best represented. Josh’s clients appreciate how well he listens to them, and frequently tell him that he is the first attorney who understands where they’re coming from or what point they’ve been trying to make, albeit unsuccessfully, with VA.
Grubaugh Law is located in Connecticut, but veterans living just about anywhere can make use of Josh's experienced legal representation using phone and email. If you have service-connected injuries / disabilities and your claim for VA benefits was denied, don't hesitate to contact Grubaugh Law for a free consultation.
The first stage in the VA disability benefits process is filing the claim, where you send in a completed VA Form 21-526EZ to VA by mail, by fax, or by uploading it directly into the VA portal. To put yourself in the best position to succeed on your claim, have your evidence ready, such as medical treatment records, letters of support from friends, family, or colleagues, as well as private doctor opinions connecting your current disabilities to your service. To a reasonable degree, VA has a duty to assist in helping you gather certain evidence in support of your claim, as long as you notify them of the type of evidence to be collected, where to locate it, and you sign the correct authorizations.
There are multiple stages of appeal where you have an opportunity to be successful on your VA claim. But you want to put yourself in the best position at each of these stages, and if you win it in the initial rating decision then you get your benefits much sooner, as opposed to years down the road. It would help to have an attorney shepherd you through this initial stage, and advise on what documents you need and how to obtain them, as well as what points to emphasize in your or your friends’ and family members’ statements.
There are multiple different scenarios to appeal if your initial VA claim is denied by an adverse rating decision. One of the changes brought by The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 was providing veterans more flexibility in choosing the avenue of appeal within VA. Veterans can choose to have an adverse claim decision reviewed by a 1) supplemental claim, 2) higher level review, or 3) appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA).
In a supplemental claim, you can submit additional evidence for the adjudicator to consider. This is the route to take if you know there is more relevant evidence out there that could reverse the VA’s initial decision.
In the higher level review, a more experienced adjudicator will review your file. You may not submit additional evidence, and either you or your representative can request an informal phone conversation with the adjudicator before he or she makes their decision.
In an appeal to the BVA, you are side-stepping these first two avenues. With the BVA, you can supplement your file with additional evidence, request a hearing to present testimony, or go to direct review based on the file of record. The BVA is located in Washington D.C., but conducts tele-hearings.
The Appeals Modernization Act allowed veterans to streamline their appeals in certain cases, and allowed other veterans to take a longer route of the appeals process if they so choose. The VA is a well-meaning organization but overworked and understaffed given the demands placed upon it so things can still drag out for many years . Due to this, many veterans can understandably find the process frustrating.
The next stage of appeal is to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC), an Article 1 federal court. Often times, success at the CAVC takes the form of identifying errors committed by the BVA and CAVC orders a remand of the veterans case. These remand orders often request VA to either further develop the veteran's claim, or for the BVA to address errors identified by the veteran or their representative. So far, all the cases Grubaugh Law has won at the CAVC involved a remand of the veteran’s claims to the BVA either through a CAVC decision or through a joint motion for remand agreed upon by counsel for VA and Josh.
If you have service-connected disabilities, Josh Grubaugh is here to make sure your rights are protected and your side of the story is told. For a free consultation about how he can help in your case, contact Grubaugh Law.