3 Things to Know About the DRO BEFORE Your Meeting

Is the Decision Review Officer (DRO) your friend? Better put, is the Decision Review Officer like your priest, or your Veteran Service Officer, or your favorite buddy at the Legion?

No. In reality, it’s like saying the cops are your friends during your interrogation minus your Miranda Rights. Or, better yet, it’s like when the principal asked you about how you and your friends super glued the girls’ locker room shut while patting you assuredly on the back as though he’s your uncle – not your friend. No way, no how.

Those people are tools of a system and function that way for a reason. Decision Review Officers are employed to render a decision on your claim supplementing the appeals process. Now, we know cops and we know principals through experience. But what do we know about Decision Review Officers?

Here’s what the Decision Review Officer process is: it’s an option for veterans to have a second look at a decision from the VA about their claim. A veteran can either request a Decision Review Officer Review or a straight appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals. After a DRO decision, you can still appeal to the Board.

The rest of this post is about problems with the Decision Review Officer (DRO) and their process, according the government. Now, I have my own take on DRO types, but that’s another story. For those who don’t know, the Government Accountability Office, the guys who report to Congress, recently released this report on DRO’s.

Here’s what the GAO found about Decision Review Officers and their process. I love the title, “Clearer Information for Veterans… Could Improve Appeal Process.” That says it all:

  • VA letters to veterans where the veteran chooses are not clear enough to help veterans understand the difference. According to Regional Office Managers, veterans could not make a clear choice just based on the letters.
  • VA does not know how to effectively train Decision Review Officers. This would seem important to sort out since the DRO is supposed to make decisions. It would be nice if they were trained properly and in a uniform manner.
  • VA does not know how to assign Decision Review Officers tasking. So in one office, the DRO may be doing informal hearings when they don’t have enough training. In another office, they may not.

To summarize, the VA has a tool, the Decision Review Officer role that could work well. However, the VA has not surprisingly no understanding how to use or how to train DRO’s to help them make DECISIONS.

Do during your hearing with the DRO, remember that the guy is not your friend. He is a person with a specific role and can make a decision on your claim. This decision can be made based on information you provide during the meeting. The DRO is possibly not trained well and possibly not being used properly.

Your take away. The DRO is not your friend. They are not trained properly. The government is aware of the problem. The VA is aware of the problem. Neither has fixed the problem.

Meanwhile, you are stuck plowing fields without a clue. Better pick a good plow. Your plow could be a Veteran Service Officer or an attorney. Make sure your plow is someone you know and trust. Never agree to anything straight out of the meeting unless you absolutely know what you’re doing.

I have a specific theory on these guys based on my own experience. I think there is some tomfoolery going on in the VA right now. If you want to read my unedited take on Decision Review Officers‘ thinking it’ll be posted on DisabledVeterans.org. But for now, just know that these professionals are not your friends.

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Voc Rehab Survival GuideBenjamin Krause is an award winning investigative journalist, attorney, and disabled veteran of the US Air Force, where he served in its Special Operations Command. He wrote his guide, the Voc Rehab Survival Guide for Veterans, after winning his long fight for benefits against VA to help other veterans do the same. Benjamin is a graduate of Northwestern University and the University of Minnesota Law School using VA Vocational Rehabilitation.

About the Author

Benjamin Krause
Benjamin Krause is a Veterans Benefits Attorney and journalist who investigates problems veterans face with the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. He regularly reports on veterans' benefits news and analysis on the website DisabledVeterans.org.
  • carolyndave

    In ’99 I was diagnosed with cancer-related to Agent Orange(Viet Nam,April67 to April 68)- they excised two large tumors & erectus femorous in my right thigh-I was imediatly put on the V A rolls at 100%. In Sept. of 2011I was reduced to 10% at the age of 64. I cannot fullfill my financial obligations-son in college-everthing I own is for sale or sold.I and my wife of 36 years are scared to death.I was a contractor for 35 years-I no longer operate as a builder-or participate in most physical activities- it was hard to beleive it was service related-but with all the radiation treatments & Doctors I met with in the last decade-I’ve been assured it was. I’m not the only one.

    • Molly – POW wife

      Dave, you need to get in touch with your Congress Critter for your area and register a formal complaint. Go to the news stations and try to get a special report on television, and mention to your Congressman that you will make it known whether or not he/she helped you to get what you deserve. BE THE SQUEAKY WHEEL, LOUD AND CLEAR, AND FIGHT WITH ALL YOU’VE GOT TO MAKE IT RIGHT!! WAKE UP THOSE ASSHOLES THAT STEAL YOUR BENEFITS AND LET THE WHOLE WORLD KNOW ABOUT IT…SOMEBODY WILL HEAR YOUR STORY AND MAKE IT RIGHT~~~WITH THE LORD’S HELP~~~AND HE’S DEFINITELY ON YOUR SIDE!!!! THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE, DAVE, AND GOD BLESS YOU NOW AND ALWAYS.

      • US Marine-Ret

        Fully concur with Molly. The press and TV are the only voices that the VA listens to. Based on others comments, The bureaucrafts of the VA are ignoring the will of Congress and the SecVA concerning the term “persumptive” in regards to Agent Orange. They know that Congressional members only talk and do nothing else and that the SecVA is only temporary. Nobody gets fired for not following the regs and laws associated to how the VA raters decide or rescind ratings. Firing is the only way that things will change. No penalties equal people doing what they want.

    • ConcernedVet

      Your 100% rating was based on your cancer. Once the cancer goes into remission you will be reduced to 0%. Your new rating will be based upon the residuals of the cancer. There are a few things to keep in mind when considering your service connected cancer. At 0% you can request an increase at any given time, just let your rep or va know your condition
      has increased in severity. The second is if any new condition develops because of a condition your already s/ c for, you can request s/c for a secondary condition. Lastly, if you were to pass from your s/c condition even at 0% your spouse could be entitled to additional benefits. PLEASE UTILIZE YOUR VETERAN SERVICE ORGANIZTIONS!. They are there to assist you,.


  • US Marine-Ret

    I used the DRO process because it was supposed to be “Faster”. It took over a year and a half for the DRO to go along with the original decision. Got to thinking why? They had plenty of evidence of my claimed conditions. They never respond to letters from vets or Congressman (except after 3 followups). Additionally, I figured that the DROs are probably the people who are supervisors and review the original decisions made by their raters. With that in mind, why would they want to overturn the rater’s decision, especially if it turns out they trained them to deny valid claims!!!! After receiving the DRO denial, I pressed the Board of Veterans Appeals appeal that I filed same time as DRO. Guess what – my ratings were increased based on the same evidence that was submitted! It took 4 1/2 years.

    Advice to others – DO NOT select DRO process. It is obviously only a delaying tactic. The only way to get timely VA rating decisions overturned is via a BVA hearing. Get the hearing and let the chips fall where they may. A frustrated Vet.

    • Frank

      I have to say my DRO experience went very well After a half hour of talking to my VEt Rep she gave me an increase to 70% right there and i applied for unemployability Have C&P this friday-13th= and looks good for that going thru im just waiting on my back pay now

  • D. Smith

    Serving in the military causes all types problems. Ask the DRO if he or she served. If not, the person will probably not understand how it was. For example, setting foot in the Republic of Vietnam during the war (even if it is was just a 1 hour layover), and even if there is a family history and a personal history of smoking and obesity Respiratory cancers; Type 2 diabetes; and Ischemic heart disease are presumptive and can be service connected under 38 CFR 3.309 (e). Forget about 38 CFR 3.307 (d).

  • PAUL


  • Masterblaster554

    In DRO Review process, I had a previous diagnosis of Mysthenia Gravis my original DRO had scheduled me for another exam to evaluate my condition. I had taken the VA C&P, and in the examiners Progress Notes and on page 15, (X)Neuromuscuar – (X) Myasthenia gravis, and on page 26, does this condition prevent veteran from performing a job, (X) Yes, UNABLE TO WALK STAND OR SIT BECAUSE OF THE ABOVE CONDITION ALONG WITH PTSD. After the Progress Notes were returned and prior to it getting back to the DRO, in it’s normal slow manner for a final statement. that original DRO was transfered to another city, The new DRO has called me by phone to say that my claim for myasthenia gravis has been denied because there was no indication this was in m records prior to me getting out of service. Tital 38 requires the claim be well grounded prior to an exam for evaluation, In my opinion the new DRO has no juditial authority to make this decision, but she did an I can’t find anything specific to say she can’t. Can someone point me to any thing I can use to help.

  • Paul

    Two days after my claim was denied I filed a NOD & have requested a DRO decision. As my VRO said “keep it short and to the point”.The VA denied my claim for prostate cancer and ignored their own bulletin dated May 2010 acknowledging that AO was used from Feb 1961 thru May 1975. I actually sent them a copy of their bulletin certified mail.They said AO was used in 1966 and therefore my claim was denied. Along with the NOD we sent them another copy of their bulletin.Who knows,they might actually read it this time. Now after a 2 year wait I have no idea when I’ll hear from the DRO.

  • Thomas Grayson
  • john p

    just seen my dro im a navy vet,he was too! the meeting went well showed new evidence,will see what happens

  • Brent P
  • Sam

    I can’t believe I was determined disabled by Social Security for a neck injury
    and denied by the VA where the injury occured. It’s such ashame how Veteran’s
    are treated in this country. I hope other Disabled Veterans have better luck.

    • Paul Nelson

      I too was told by the F.S.D.VA that I was better off getting help S.S Disability for my injury

    • Neal

      There should be a law only one government source should pay you for the same disability. Either the VA or Social Sec. NOT BOTH! No WAY!
      I am disabled to a certain percentage by VA after 30 years of Active duty and 5 combat tours..and could easily get 100% from SS but to me that is bullshit! One or the other NOT BOTH! sorry….CONGRESS PASS A LAW! 100% Disability can not come from TWO GOV entities. Jesus Christ!! you want the DMV to pay you also?

  • Rodney

    On the west coast in the Portland office,the DRO process takes 2-3 years and if you lose another 3-4 years for the BOA. I went the DRO process and now wish I would have just went to the BOA where you have attorneys looking at your case and not claims adjusters. I feel its just a way for the VA to stall claims and look good before the Congress. If the process took 60-90 days,it would be a good alternative,but now it just slows the process even more.

    • McCrea, T.

      It’s like what they say when your in active duty (Hurry up and wait!).

  • Jess

    They did right by me although it took two years. I wasn’t expecting a win. Now hoping seizures get service presumptions from the burn pits in KAF, AF though I’m likely to be a grandpa by then.

  • gnelly

    I had a remand from the BVA, the DRO screwed up my remand and appeal; they separated my appeal into two appeals, ignored the remand, and started from a NOD. After almost two years of fighting them, i finally got a new DRO who completed my file in 3 days. I had to get my VFW rep to actually go into the VA office, where the DRO is located, find my file, and show them that my case never went digital, but was a physical folder. I finally received my 100% after a 9 year fight. I am so glad it is done, and it was a tough battle. key advice, find a good rep! know what you want –i.e. the actual medical codes– and complete the forms on time with the supporting documents.

  • penylee56

    I filed DRO 13 Sept2-13 – have not heard a word

    These comments do not sound very good

    Iam 70% denied PTSD – combat related and Military sexual trauma

    they agree I have PTSD, depression and aniexty – but not service connected – aveage turn around is 518days – that time has passed

    denied SSD and appealing that as well – my life is on hold!