There are as many viewpoints on DROs as there are Veterans. Many of us, according to the GAO, are not “fully informed” of our choices:
When a Veteran gets a RO decision and decides to appeal the decision, he has to make a choice of whether or not to have his decision reviewed by a Decision Review Officer (DRO) or, send his claim directly to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA). Further, he needs to decide if he wants a hearing or not.
I think there is a Catch 22 in this report that we may have missed. In a nutshell, if you have new and material evidence, then the DRO can grant your benefits if supported by it. However, at least from an “official” position, because of stare decisis, the DRO can’t grant any new benefits unless there is new and material evidence. This is “hidden” on page 6, buried in the “flow chart” where it says,
“If new evidence, reviews and may make new decision
If no new evidence, sends appeal to Board“
If we fully beleive this GAO report, then your VSO is highly likely to recommend a DRO review. Further, according to the report,
“ In fiscal years 2003 through 2008, 21 percent of DRO reviews resulted in a full grant of benefits compared to 17 percent of traditional reviews”
In summary, my take on this is if you have new and material evidence, go ahead and ask for a DRO review…you just may be awarded benefits. However, if you do not have new and material evidence, you are unlikely to get your benefits awarded by the DRO. It would be best to save yourself about 260 days of waiting and go directly to the Board of Veterans appeal.
I just wonder why VSO’s have not figured this out, after all, I am just a Joe Average Vet.
Would a Nexus be new evidence? And should a guy send it in to Janesville?
Would a DBQ be considered N&ME?
If a Vet does his homework and properly addresses the Hickson elements when starting his/her claim, then material and probative fact is often ignored by the RO. The RO’s negative evidence is always grandiose, while the Vets postitive evidence is always miniscule. Therefore, the Vet’s claim being in equipoise will likely not happen at the vARO level. Getting the DRO to look at “new and material” evidence as positive evidence for the Vet’s claim is part of the problem, JOVO:
“The DRO review process has helped some veterans get additional benefits at the RO level, but has not reduced the percentage of appeals continuing on to the board – The primary purpose of the program.”