Most Veterans probably wouldn’t believe it but the VA is actually supposed to be your friend when applying for disability benefits. This is in theory. The VA has the “duty to assist” in terms of helping Veterans develop their claims. The duty to assist requires VA to fully develop the claim for increase so VA must make “reasonable efforts” to assist the vet in locating the evidence. This help includes a medical examination so that the current level of disability can be evaluated. VA “has a duty to fully and sympathetically develop a veteran’s claim to its optimum”. The VA must determine all potential claims raised by the evidence applying all relevant laws and regulations. The evidence in the claims file may lead to the conclusion that a claim benefit Y is raised by the evidence. Also, a claim that was never rendered or became final occurs when “the time for appealing a decision did not run where the sec failed to provide the Veteran with information or material critical to the appellate process”. The appeal period will be tolled when the VA has failed to notify claimant of claim denial, mail claimant a copy of the board decision, provide notice of appeal rights, or issue a statement of the case. If a veteran receives treatment at VA for a service connected problem that treatment (such as hospitalization) can constitute a new claim for increased ratings. VA is charged with the knowledge to know whats going on.
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