Yes, many military families are asked to appeal a service connected death. At first, receiving a letter from the VA like this can be detrimental.
On the other hand, setting aside our emotion is critical and sometimes families need help.
Does a Service Connected Death Matter?
Absolutely. This issue isn’t even debatable.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is wrong, and you know it. The number one reason cause of a service connected death should be appealed is because it impacts benefits for spouses, children and dependents. In other words, compensation for dependents and family members.
Had the service member died as a civilian, they might have wrongful death rights or other tort system rights. The military doesn’t use this same process. As a result, appealing the VA for a service connected death is important in the short-run and long run.
Why is this happening to my Family?
The letter produced by the VA should not be viewed “gave over”. In my experience, government agencies deny benefits for one reason: so the Veterans Affairs Department doesn’t process an invalid claim.
it is easier for the VA to make families jump through hoops than trying to recoup an overpayment. In Q1 of 2017, the VA claims they overpaid nearly $1.6 million in benefits.
Luckily, military families who act fast can appeal the VA’s denial.
How to Appeal a Service Connected Death Matter
Unfortunately, there isn’t one right answer on how to appeal a service connected death matter. This is true because cases can be heard by:
- Board of Veteran Appeals,
- Decision Review Officers (DRO), and
- Court of Appeals.
Generally, military and VA benefits are appealed by filing a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). I believe the evidence gathering process is just as important as a NOD because facts and laws should support a NOD.
For example, does a family have a copy of DD Form 1300 outlining the casualty repot? And, what factual discrepancies can be identified or what facts should have been included in the report?
Here are other documents that might be helpful during this process:
- Marriage Certificates
- Birth Certificates
- DD 214
- Medical Records
- Base Newspapers
- Dental Records
- Letters and e-mail Exchanged by Family Members
- Independent Medical Examiner
- Mortician Notes
- Family Medical History
- Witnesses Reports
Again, I know these are difficult issues to address during the grieving process. As a Veteran’s Attorney, I want to help and I wish the entire family the very best.