Sun Tzu is one of the greatest military strategists of all time. Besides military leaders, many attorneys apply his wisdom to their legal practices. Maybe it was pure coincidence, but I came across two of his quotes yesterday rights on the heels of a good outcome for one of the veterans we represent. I thought they described the steps leading up to that veteran’s VA disability hearing pretty well. The two quotes both deal with preparation. They are:
Prepare Your VA Disability Claim to Make the Hearing No Big Deal
As I had told my client the day before the hearing, you don’t want the DRO hearing to be a high stakes event. We had already prepared the evidence we needed to establish the necessary points in his claim for service connection and our desired VA disability rating.
All we wanted to do at the hearing was point out to the DRO what we had already provided ahead of time, make sure they understood its significance in proving the claim, and answer any questions they had. If we did get to the point of giving testimony from my veteran, we were simply going to “fill in the gaps” and provide some additional details that were not in the documents we had already provided.
Say It Before Your VA Disability Hearing
Anything you are going to testify about at your VA disability hearing can be done ahead of time with a sworn statement. You can write out what you need to say at your hearing and submit it in advance so the hearing officer can read and consider it.
The same is true about the testimony of others you were planning on bringing to the VA disability hearing. They can submit a sworn statement without the need for driving to the Regional Office for the VA disability hearing.
In the majority of cases, the hearing officer will be just as persuaded by your written, sworn statement as they would be by your testimony at the VA disability hearing. Done correctly, it can have an even bigger impact than live testimony. Many veterans like the sworn statement because it is less stressful and they can be sure to cover everything they want the hearing officer to know. Look for more about that in a future blog article from me.
Show It Before Your VA Disability Hearing
Just like you can submit a sworn statement in lieu of live testimony, you can submit medical or military records before the hearing date. If you obtain something favorable to your claim, there is no need to wait until the VA disability hearing to show it to the hearing officer.
Do not wait until the hearing. You should present that evidence earlier rather than later so the person deciding your claim can have it as soon as possible.
Just be sure to explain to them what it is you are submitting and why it is important to your claim. Don’t assume that they will understand it without explanation.
The Key Is Submitting the “Right Stuff”
Many veterans think VA disability hearings are so important because they believe they can go in and convince the hearing officer to grant the claim based on sheer will or personality. It doesn’t work that way. And, the same is true of evidence you present before the VA disability hearing. If it doesn’t cover the missing pieces to your VA claims puzzle, it will not help you win your claim.
This is where someone experienced in the VA disability process can be a huge benefit. We help veterans every day identify, gather, and present evidence to win their claims. If you have questions about your VA disability claim, including the VA disability hearing or pre-hearing stage, feel free to reach out to us for a free consultation. We will be glad to hear from you and help.