The Code of Federal Regulations or C.F.R. is important to veterans filing claims for the first time or in appeal because there are laws protecting us from the mistakes that can be made by the V.A. in the process of reviewing your information. Be sure to check the links section of the site to find out more about the C.F.R. You should look only for title 38 Pensions, Bonuses and Veteran’s Relief. Below are some examples of some of the codes that may apply to your case. I also recommend looking up some of the previous cases online from veterans who challenged these codes. You may be surprised what you can find in research. I will post anything I find as I am just starting this process myself. Feel free to share with me any links you have that I don’t.
38 CFR 3.103
Procedural due process and appellate rights
Every claimant has the right to written notice of the decision made on his or her claim, the right to a hearing, and the right to representation….Claimants and their representatives are entitled to notice of any decision made by the VA that affects payment of benefits. The notice must state the decision made, effective dates, the reasons for the decision, the right of the veteran to a hearing on any issue involved in the claim, the right of representation, and the right to appeal.
38 CFR 3.159
Department of Veterans Affairs assistance in developing claims
The VA is obligated to complete applications. This substantial completion includes the claimant’s name, his or her relationship to the veteran if applicable, sufficient service information for the VA to verify the claimed service, the benefit claimed and any medical conditions on which it is based, the claimant’s signature, and (for claims of nonservice-connected disability or death pension and parents’ dependency and indemnity compensation) a statement of income.
The VA is also obligated to accept “Competent medical evidence” provided by a person who is qualified through education, training or experience to offer medical diagnoses, statements or opinions. “Competent medical evidence” may also mean statements showing sound medical principles found in medical treatises. It would also include statements contained in well-respected in medical and scientific articles and research reports or analyses.
The VA also accepts “competent lay evidence” which is defined as evidence not requiring specialized education, training, or experience from the person offering the evidence.
These are just a few examples from the C.F.R., Title 38. You can look up more via the links page. As you can see these codes are very important to your case. Remember, when you enter the appeal process if you are trying to prove service-connection the burden of proof is on you. You must use all the tools available to you to prove your case. Do not rely on your veteran representative to do this for you. There are some great reps out there who sometimes are willing to go above and beyond and have vast knowledge of this process and may know these things and guide you correctly to getting your case approved, but unfortunately a lot of these guys are very over-worked and underpaid and although they do their level best to help veterans they sometimes do not have the knowledge or time to go that far for you and so it is up to you to try to prove all you can by yourself. I had to find this out the hard way and now I am about to have my second compensation and pension exam for my appeal for service-connection for gulf war illness related medical conditions.
If anyone would like to contribute anything they know about this article please contact me. I am learning as I go and sharing it with my readers, but I am far from an expert and don’t think I would ever make that claim. If I ever get my case approved I hope to never look at any codes or regulations again! I would be happy to share what I know or my opinions here as usual and help other vets, but I will be happy to not fall asleep with books on how to appeal VA claims on my lap again!
Good luck to you all on your claims and I hope that somehow you are able to muddle through this fight. The important thing is to never give up! The VA will send you confusing letters, try to intimidate you by saying that “it’s all in your head” or you are trying to “prove a conspiracy theory” and silly things like this. Don’t be intimidated and don’t get angry. Just get your case approved and get the benefits that you fought for! God bless.