Hope all is well with you. I just got a most confusing letter from my VARO. In May 2011, I submitted a NOD asking for a DRO review and hearing as you recommend. Today I got a letter from VA telling me that they would try to resolve my disagreement through the "Post-Decison Review" process.
Here's paragraph 1 from my NOD letter. "I want to file a Notice of Disagreement on the following items in reference b. I also request a Decision Review Officer (DRO) de novo review and a personal hearing."
In a subsequent paragraph of the VA letter it says a DRO or Veterans Service Representative will check the file for completeness, review my evidence, arguments, and all pertinent evidence in the claims folder. It goes on to say if it can't be resolved it can go to BVA.
The last paragraph is the kicker. "How Do you Seect The Decision Review Officer Or The Traditional Appeal Process?"
It states that I need to notify them within 60 days if I want a DRO review or traditional review process. "If we do not hear from you within 60 days you cannot have a DRO review; instead your appeal will be reviewed under the traditional process."
Is my initial letter moot? I'm preaching to the choir when I say that dealing with VA is frustrating. I looked at M21-IMR, Part 1, Chapter 5, Section A. It is not particularly enlightening.
Any thoughts? Looks to me as they are just trying to add some additional delay time.
Thanks for writing and letting me know about this. I think there's a good chance you nailed it when you said, "Looks to me as they are just trying to add some additional delay time."
It's an interesting letter. I haven't seen one quite like this and it really is confusing. You clearly asked for DRO Process so that's what they should be doing. However, in the last 5 years or so the DRO process has caught on in popularity and what used to be a pretty quick way of getting your claim reviewed by an expert is now as backlogged as everything else.
The DRO Process in the past went very quickly...weeks, not years...and was a pretty reasonable thing to participate in. Today you may wait a year for the DRO.
Here's the problem I see for you. If you choose the traditional review (often referred to as reconsideration) the way I read that letter is that it may go back to the desk of someone who is lesser skilled or it may go to a DRO. I never recommend reconsideration because it seems to me that that level of review has already failed you. But they say that maybe it will be reviewed by a DRO. I think we can bet that the chances are that it won't get a DRO review.
However...I think they're telling you that traditional will be faster. But I don't buy that because if traditional (reconsideration) review fails you, what then? BVA? That's even more of a delay.
If I were you I'd write back to your Regional Office and tell them, "In response to your letter of DATE I elect that my NOD should be subject to DRO Process review. Although I've requested a personal hearing with DRO Process review, I will waive my right in this instance to have a personal hearing if the DRO reviewer will notify me of a positive decision prior to that time."
The personal hearing takes a lot of time. Although I believe that initially we should always ask for personal hearing as part of the DRO Process of appeal, I don't believe that it adds a lot of value.
If you tell them they can have a DRO review and find in your favor and you won't demand a hearing, this gives them an out to avoid the time spent in a hearing.
You may want to read more about the DRO Process of appeals here http://www.vawatchdogtoday.org/DRO_Process.html