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NOD SOC AVAILABILITY


Galen Rogers
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Howdy All,

Just checked VA.gov and the VA has issued a Statement of the Case (SOC) on my NODs submitted last June 2019. The boiler plate state is as follows: "The Veterans Benefits Administration sent you a Statement of the Case on April 9, 2020. The Statement of the Case explains the reasons why they couldn’t fully grant your appeal."  eBenefits shows no changes in my granted disabilities yet so no idea if anything was granted or not. The problem is that I am in the Philippines and can't get any mail from the US due to the COVID-19 shut down over here. I have my mail sent to my FPO mail box at the Manila RAO but the US Embassy and the RAO are all closed to comply with the shut down. I emailed my VSO (SD state Vet Office) and asked if she could send me an electronic copy via email. Can VSOs down load a copy from the VA's system to do that or would that violate VA rules?

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I know that some will, but not sure if it is against the rules. He certainly could summarize what's going on to you though. Maybe you could Skype or Zoom with him?

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Im unaware of any rules which limit communication between a VSO and the Veteran.  Remember, you sign POA to be represented by a VSO.  This said, I cant be sure what DAV, VFW, etc.'s policies are on the matter.  Why dont you ask your VSO?  Or, is he like other VSO's who dont return phone calls or emails?  

Im more than a little suprised you got a SOC.  SOC's were prior to implementation of Ramp in Feb. 2019, so your claim must still be in legacy.  That is the only way you would be getting a SOC.  It "may" be in your best interest to exit from legacy appeals and opt into RAMP (AMA).  I have said this before, the SOC doesnt appear to be much benefit to the Veteran...its just VA's hogwash as to why they denied you.  However, I have seen Vets benefit by VA's failure to file the SOC or SSOC, since those were required in legacy appeals prior to RAMP (AMA).  

The worst part of legacy appeals, in my opinion, is the requirement of VARO "certification" of the claim to the BVA.  This means about another 18 months of waiting..and of little benefit to Veterans.  It was so bad, that the NVLSP filed a class action against VA in regard to the long delay in certifying the claim to the BVA.  The NVLSP won, at least in part.  RAMP (AMA) eliminated certification to the BVA and, tho final numbers are not published yet, that would appear to drop "18 months" off the appeal time, while the claim does nothing but sit in the VARO office waiting to be certified.  Certificiation should take 30 minutes, but VARO figured out how to draw it out to 18 months.  

For reasons stated above, you may consider opting into AMA.  

A big concern here is that you have a short fuse to file an I9 after the SOC.  You may not even get the SOC until this period has passed.  This would mean your appeal would be deemed "abandonded".  

You have just 60 days to file an I9, after VARO MAILS IT.  https://www.va.gov/vaforms/va/pdf/VA9.pdf

MY ADVICE IS TO FILE THE I9 NOW, or else your claim could be a corona Virus victim.   Send it FedEx, USPS, via ebenefits upload, or by pigeon carrier if you must, but your claim will be abandonded if you dont send it in 60 days.  IN other words those mail delays could "kill" your claim by VA not recieving your I9.  You can add evidence later, but file the I9.  NOW.   Dont expect VA to be generous and "waive" the 60 day requirement "just because" your mail is stopped and you live in the Phillipines.  

Be aware you are "giving up" some things by living in the Phillipines vs the lower connected 48 states.  You cant expect to gain from the benefits of living in the Philipines without also having to put up with the disadvanteges of living there.  Having never been to the Philipines, but I have known people from there.  I think the labor is very cheap there, but why dont you tell us?  I really would like to know why you chose to live there, assuming you did, indeed make that choice.  

Edited by broncovet
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broncovet my  NODs were in legacy. The  statement in VA.gov says I can appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals or I can request a hearing by a VA law judge. It does tell me I have to do it within 60 days. I will definitely do that. Just not sure which way to go with it Board or Law judge. Hopefully you all can shed a little light on that question.

As for my VSO until the COVID-19 shutdown she would normally respond with in a week. Unfortunately she did not respond to an email I sent about 2 weeks ago. Not sure if they are actually working or not. I plan to call both her and the VA 1-800 number Monday morning EST.

Living here in the Philippines definitely has its pros and cons. Overall cost of living is cheaper. My wife and I own a small house here. She is originally from here. The actual plan was to split our time between here and the states. The lock down sort of screwed that up at present. Labor is dirt cheap here ($10 a day for most day workers). A live in maid costs about $120 a month plus room and board. We love the tropical climate. Since I'm retired Navy I can join the Retired Activities Office and that entitles me to a FPO mail box for regular first class mail and small packages (16 oz or less). There is an actual VA regional office in the US Embassy plus an out patient clinic. They will treat only service connected issue. But that is still better than nothing. There is also a TRICARE authorized provide here at the local University Hospital so we are covered there. The overall cons are the small things we take for granted. You can get a lot of products here that are available in the states but you pay a premium (probably double the cost). Some things you can't get like diet Dr Pepper. Regular Dr Pepper is available but cost about $8.00 a 12 pack. Pepsi, coke, RC, Mt Dew are are bottled over here so costs are the same as over there. Medical and dental costs are much cheaper over here. I could go on for several pages 🙂 on bothe pros and cons. It's not for everybody. 

So I appreciate all the advice so far and hopefully additional  advice  on whether go straight to the Board or a Law judge with my appeal form 9. I will come back and post what I find out about getting an electronic copy of my SOC.

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I'll be following since I'm going through the same thing.  I do have  a law firm representing me so if I get any info. from them, I will pass it on.

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9 hours ago, broncovet said:

 

Im more than a little suprised you got a SOC.  SOC's were prior to implementation of Ramp in Feb. 2019, so your claim must still be in legacy.  That is the only way you would be getting a SOC.  It "may" be in your best interest to exit from legacy appeals and opt into RAMP (AMA).  I have said this before, the SOC doesnt appear to be much benefit to the Veteran...its just VA's hogwash as to why they denied you.  However, I have seen Vets benefit by VA's failure to file the SOC or SSOC, since those were required in legacy appeals prior to RAMP (AMA).  

The worst part of legacy appeals, in my opinion, is the requirement of VARO "certification" of the claim to the BVA.  This means about another 18 months of waiting..and of little benefit to Veterans.  It was so bad, that the NVLSP filed a class action against VA in regard to the long delay in certifying the claim to the BVA.  The NVLSP won, at least in part.  RAMP (AMA) eliminated certification to the BVA and, tho final numbers are not published yet, that would appear to drop "18 months" off the appeal time, while the claim does nothing but sit in the VARO office waiting to be certified.  Certificiation should take 30 minutes, but VARO figured out how to draw it out to 18 months.  

For reasons stated above, you may consider opting into AMA.  

 

broncovet I see on the VA.gov website that I have a choice to remain in legacy or move into the AMA process. To move into the AMA I have to submit a VA Form 10182 vice the VA Form 9. Anyway that is the way I read it. Am I correct in this understanding? 

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Wow!   Please mail me the maid who works for 120 per month.  I dont drink Pop anyway.  

 Seriously.  You have choices.  I will omit the HLR and SCL choices as I dont recommend those for you.  

With the Board, you have 3 choices:

Read the decision and instructions.  My reccomendation is to check box 11b (the middle choice).  The reason is you probably dont want to do a hearing it would be highly impractical and cause delays especially with you in the Phillines (unless you hire a lawyer to attend hearing for you).  You dont want the "no new evidence) choice because you will likely need new evidence.  Its difficult to tell what evidence vA has, but the saftest bet is to allow new evidence.  

VA has obviously changed form numbers, and the newest is the 10182.  Follow the instructions to the letter.  

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Thanks broncovet. I spoke to my VSO on Monday morning. She said she would get me a copy and email it to me some time during the day. Unfortunately that did not happen. She had just started working from home so it is possible she might have some technical issues. But an email stating such would have been nice. I really try and always look at things with the "glass half full" attitude. Unfortunately it is really hard to do that when dealing with VSOs. I am on my 4th and they all seem to have the same approach. Make the vet continuously beg for their assistance. I also spoke to VA via their toll free number. They can't email me the letter or tell me what it says. They did say that after 10 days if I have not received it they can fax it to me if I have a fax number. I do but hopefully that won't be necessary.  

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Howdy All,

Mostly good news. My VSO emailed me the SOC. But when she logged into VBMS she also found a rating decision letter. Basically they approved everything on my NODs except the challenged effective date for my OSA. They did not increase my existing 10% rating for each knee due to my meniscus being ruptured in both but they actually added a separate  rating for each knee for instability so I effectively got my increase. They even granted my bilateral upper radiculopathy that they originally said I had to file a new claim for. The RO on the decision stated it was in fact a CUE and approved it. The decision letter rates me at 100% now with an effective date of the original claim (29/Dec/2017). So now I have submit my VA Form 10182 and check  box 11b so I can submit additional evidence. I will probably hire a lawyer for this one or at least have them take a look. So overall can't really complain. Everyone thanks for the advice and comments.

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