For the most part, VA ratings are simply used to tell the veteran “accepted” or “denied”, but in some cases, it is possible to receive a decision that says “deferred.” So what does the “deferred” claim rating mean, and what do you do if you receive a “deferred” rating? Don’t panic, this doesn’t mean it was denied!
What is a Deferred Claim Rating?
In submitting a claim to the VA, it is always important to include as much information as possible. There needs to be a diagnosis of your condition, a connection to the condition and your time in service, and then plenty of evidence supporting the diagnosis and service-connection.
For the majority of cases, the VA is able to make a decision they are confident about based upon everything in your claim. However, occasionally the VA determines that a claim is incomplete or underdeveloped, meaning that they don’t believe that there is enough evidence to accept your claim, but there’s not so much lacking that they will deny it yet, either. This is where the term “deferred” will be applied.
Deferred claims typically occur when a veteran has submitted multiple claims to the VA. If the VA has sufficient evidence to make its decision on some of the claims, but not all, a deferred rating will be applied. For instance, you have just filed for migraines, depression, and tinnitus. The VA accepts the claim for depression, denies tinnitus, but decides that the migraines claim needs further development. In this case, your claim for migraines will be assigned a deferred rating.
The reason this occurs with multiple claims is that the VA does not need to defer in the cases of a single claim. In such cases, the lack of evidence or mistakes in the claim would simply lead to a denial, which could be appealed.
There are numerous reasons a deferred rating can be assigned including something as simple as a doctor using the correct VA terminology in writing their opinion. It could also be that a newer occurrence happened to the veteran which should be considered, or even that previously inaccessible records are now accessible.
Remember, the VA processes literally hundreds of thousands of claims monthly. They really do not want to delay a decision on your claim.
To summarize it, a deferred decision is actually the lack of a conclusion. It simply means that you will be waiting longer to receive a real rating.
What a deferred rating means for you
First of all, the good news is that it’s not bad news. Because it’s neither an approval nor a denial you still have hope of receiving the disability rating for compensation that you are hoping for. It merely is a stepping stone.
When a deferred rating is assigned you will be notified by the VA. The VA will also explain to you the reasoning for your deferral. From that point, the VA will begin going through the process to further develop your claim.
Which brings us to…
What do I do if my claim is deferred?
Great question! Honestly, you could make the decision to just sit on your haunches and do nothing, trusting that the VA will get it sorted out for you…
But you also have other options.
For one, during the process of further developing your claim, you will have the opportunity to submit more evidence of your own to support your claim. Evidence that the VA accepts can come in many forms. Examples include:
- Medical Records While it might be obvious, the truth is that medical records can be updated during the course of time it takes for your claim to be decided. Not only that, medical records can have mistakes on them. This is why it is up to you to make sure your records are complete and up to date.
If you have changed caregivers be sure that everything was transferred correctly. If you know something is missing then do what you can to find it.
Furthermore, make sure that the VA has the correct information in their system. If you are unsure then you will need to contact the VA.
Remember, no one will care more about the accuracy of your records than you do. Be sure to do your due diligence in making sure they are correct.
- Service Records. Service records are usually essential in proving a claim, and like medical records, they are not always perfectly recorded or accessible. It is up to you to make sure, to the best of your ability, that the VA is getting the information it needs from the military.
- Expert Medical Opinions. It is very important that the medical professional you are seeing, especially if they are not VA, is using the proper terminology in submitting their opinion to the VA. Since medical opinions are one of the primary ways the VA determines service-connection, it is critically important they are using the correct words. Also, you will want to review the opinion they submit as the VA will look at it also for determining the severity of your condition. This can be through a nexus letter, DBQ, or medical records.
Be sure that your medical professional has all the information and that they have properly detailed the extent of your condition.
- Buddy Statements. A buddy statement can be extremely helpful in getting your claim approved. Generally, these come from close family members or friends that can be plausible witnesses of your condition and how it negatively affects your life. These statements can also be submitted from fellow service members, which can be very helpful in determining service-connection.
Ask your friends and family to write detailed descriptions of how they’ve witnessed the change to your life before and after the condition. Have them detail the obvious and the less than obvious ways your disability affects your day-to-day life.
- Deck Logs. If you were in the Navy, a deck log can be a useful piece of evidence in their VA claim. Deck logs can be used to prove a stressor that occurred on a ship as well as other incidents.
When you have received a “deferred” claim status you will want to contact the VA for any actions you can take to improve your claim. Make sure they give you specific action steps. Do not simply rely on what you believe you should do. Especially because everyone faces a different situation, meaning you may need to take actions that others wouldn’t, and vice-versa.
You may be asked to schedule another C&P exam as well. If this is the case, be sure to do so promptly. The VA is expecting that you are serious about getting them the proper information.
Remember, your questions can help dictate how your process will proceed, so be sure to do your due diligence. Making sure a deferred claim is processed correctly may come down to your effort.
Finally, this is a good opportunity to reach out to other veterans who have been in a similar situation. They may be able to help.
Would you like additional help with your deferred claim?
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About VA Claims Insider
VA Claims insider is an education-based coaching/consulting company. We’re here for disabled veterans exploring eligibility for increased VA disability benefits and who wish to learn more about that process. We also connect veterans with independent medical professionals in our referral network for medical examinations, disability evaluations, and credible independent medical opinions and nexus statements (medical nexus letters) for a wide range of disability conditions.