DECISION REVIEW OFFICER (DRO) PROCESS IN A VA DISABILITY CLAIM
If you have filed a claim for VA disability benefits, the VA will issue a Rating Decision regarding what benefits it has decided you are entitled, whether it be service connection, an increased rating for an already service connected condition, or entitlement to individual unemployability, entitlement to special monthly compensation, and the like. If you disagree with the VA Rating Decision, in its totality or in part, you have one year from the date of the decision to appeal the decision. To appeal, a veteran must file a Notice of Disagreement with the Regional Office that issued the Rating Decision. The VA now requires the use of the standardized VA Form 21-0958.
Sometime after a veteran files a Notice of Disagreement, the VA will send the veteran an appeal election form in which the VA asks the veteran to decide if he or she wants to pursue the traditional review process or the Decision Review Officer (DRO) process. Usually, the election form will allow the veteran 60 days to select which process he or she chooses. A veteran can also indicate which appeal process he or she desires in the Notice of Disagreement.
What is a DRO review? DRO's are representatives at the VA who have many years of handing VA disability claims. The DRO looks at the evidence submitted with a fresh look and does not have to give any deference or weight to the original Rating Decision issued by the Regional Office. Oftentimes, a DRO can more quickly and effectively review the Rating Decision. The DRO review is essentially an extra step in the process in which the veteran has a chance to argue his or her position. DRO reviews can be conducted formally in person at the Regional Office or informally via telephone. If, however, after the DRO review, a veteran is still not satisfied with the outcome, an appeal to the BVA is still possible.
With veterans waiting upwards of two years for a Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) decision, it could be of great benefit to request that a DRO review your claim before it gets to the BVA. If you are a veteran who needs help navigating the VA appeals process, call one of the experienced veterans' disability attorneys at Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. at 251-343-1111 today for a free case evaluation. Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. serves veterans and their families across the Gulf Coast area, including, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana.