Why DRO Timeline for Veterans Appeals Can Take 9 Months or More

DRO Timline

DRO Timeline

The VA DRO timeline after filing a Notice of Disagreement, or NOD, takes approximately 9 months.

In other words, a Veteran can expect a decision from a Decision Review Officer some nine months after filing a NOD.

Unfortunately, very few veterans are prepared for what this means.

DRO Timeline for a VA Claim

Allow me an opportunity to break down the typical process for a DRO Appeal.  Generally, this process starts after a veteran receives bad news about their claim.

Whether a veteran didn’t get the disability rating they were hoping or any other unfavorable result, I call this bad news.  I call this step one, which unfolds like so:

  1. Veteran receives bad news about their claim,
  2. Vet’s representative files a NOD,
  3. Vet’s representative is allowed an informal phone conference with the assigned DRO,
  4. New evidence is sought and filed,
  5. Informal hearing takes place,
  6. Sometimes, a second hearing takes place,
  7. Decision Review Officer makes a decision.

Based on a recent study published by our government and starting from the moment a notice of disagreement is filed, the DRO timeline takes at least 9 months.

Myself included, we are on borrowed time.  For this reason, getting this process as close to perfect as possible is a necessity.

Filing a Notice of Disagreement

One of the first opportunities for a Veteran to request a meeting or hearing with a DRO is by making a formal request within their notice of disagreement.

Unfortunately, this is where a lot of military veterans seeking benefits or their veteran service officer (VSO) will go wrong.  This is true because specific language is encouraged to assure the request was perfected.  In other words, the VA is looking for specific wording that clearly identifies an appeal before a Decision Review Officer.

Informal Phone Conference with a DRO

I believe the DRO process has two significant advantages:

  • A veteran’s claim gets reviewed as if a decision had never been made in the past, and
  • A veteran’s representative gets an opportunity to talk with the DRO and pick their brain.

Here is what I mean.  Assuming an informal phone conference is requested, the representative can ask the DRO to outline the type of substantive evidence that they believe is missing or needs to be addressed to support the veteran’s reason for appealing.

Usually, this is all about identifying evidence to satisfy a specific rule and trigger a winning outcome.

Should the Veteran Attend the Informal Phone Call?

Generally, no.  When a veteran is present, it begins to look like a hearing. If it looks like a hearing, then the DRO is required to follow certain procedural rules (like taking an oath or issuing an opening statement).  Quite frankly, the veteran needs this opportunity to see how or what the DRO is thinking.

Personally, if a Veteran wants to set themselves up for success, using the informal phone conference to their advantage is critical.

Submitting Evidence to the Decision Review Officer

Look, new evidence is critical.  If a veteran doesn’t have any new evidence, to bad.  Find new evidence so the DRO can use it to support a better decision for the Veteran versus claiming the Regional Officer (RO) made an error.

Here are a few examples of new evidence

  • Medical notes
  • Medical opinions
  • Statements from family and friends
  • Statements from the Veteran
  • Pictures
  • Military records
  • Military newspaper clippings
  • Statements from other veterans
  • X-rays
  • Pharmacy records
  • Bank records
  • Cell phone records
  • E-mail
  • Flight logs
  • DD214
  • Awards
  • Reviews
  • Job Descriptions
  • Maps

DRO Timeline for a New Hearing

The hearing portion of this process can take as little as 30 minutes to as long as multiple days.  Really, it depends on the type of evidence and whether witnesses will be testifying.

In my experience, the real work involves preparing for a hearing.  This means helping a veteran feel comfortable with the type of questions they might get asked.  I call this practice.  Practice hearing a question and giving an answer that hopefully, complies with a supporting rule or law.

DRO Timeline for a Decision

Typically, a decision is rendered within a month from the hearing.  But, in order to get to the point of having a hearing and receiving a decision, approximately 266 days would have come and gone before the veteran and their family receive a decision.

For those who stuck with me and are wondering why it takes so long, the fact of the matter is – it could be worse.  The appeal process for veterans wishing to skip a DRO review, the appeal can take more than 3 years.

Myself included, we are on borrowed time.  For this reason, getting this process as close to perfect as possible is a necessity.  If you or a loved one needs help, please contact me directly.

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