NOTE: The appeals process has changed. To appeal a VA decision made on or after February 19, 2019, you may file a Supplemental Claim, request a Higher-Level Review, or request a Board Appeal. The below information is accurate for appealing any VA decisions you received before February 19, 2019.
When you are not satisfied with the VA’s decision, there is a three-stage appeals process that you can pursue: (1) Filing a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) with your local VA and requesting a Decision Review Officer review, (2) Appealing to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and (3) Appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (also referred to as Veterans Court, USCAVC, or simply CAVC). If you need to appeal a decision from the VA, request a consultation with one of our veteran disability lawyers in Kalamazoo, MI. Our VA lawyers are ready to help!
Filing a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) with your local VA and requesting a Decision Review Officer review
The first stage of appeals involves filing a VA FORM 21-0958, Notice of Disagreement (NOD), with the VA. Our veterans attorneys highly recommend that at this stage you also request a local review, referred to as Decision Review Officer (DRO) review, of the issues disagreed with. The Notice of Disagreement must be filed within one year of the date when you are first informed of the decision that was made on your case.
If you requested a local review when filing your Notice of Disagreement, a “de novo review” of the issues you disagreed with will be conducted. This is a new review of your claims without any deference given to the previous VA decision in which you disagree with. The local reviewer (Decision Review Officer) conducting the new review has the authority to make a new decision on your claim – essentially giving you a “second bite at the apple” at a relatively early time in the adjudication process.
Once your initial claim has been reviewed by the local VA office a second time as part of the appeals process (referred to as the Decision Review Officer review), the VA sends you information on your claim and will include a Statement of the Case outlining the regulations, evidence, and laws that they used to make a decision on your application. The VA will also include an appeal form when they send you the information about your case. This is referred to as VA Form 9. If you are still not satisfied with the conclusions that the local VA office has come to regarding your claim, then the next step is to appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals by completing VA Form 9.
There are deadlines for filing these forms, so they must be dealt with promptly. One of our VA disability lawyers can assist in preparing these forms and meeting the deadlines. If you are considering appealing the VA’s decision, contact VA Disability Group for help.
Appealing to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals
If you still disagree with the VA’s decision, you may appeal the decision to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) by filing VA Form 9. The job of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals is to review the decisions made by the local VA office. When you request review, you have the opportunity to assert whether you want a hearing to take place.
A personal hearing is an informal hearing conducted by the decision review officer who will decide your claim. The hearing gives you a chance to speak up for yourself and to connect with the person who is making a decision on your claim. Often, it is best to request a hearing, but this will depend on your circumstances and the Statement of the Case. Ourcan help determine if a personal hearing should be requested and can assist you in preparing for the hearing and presenting your information to the decision review officer.
The difference at this stage of appeals is that you have a choice of three possible hearing formats.
These options include:
- A hearing in the Washington, D.C. area where the BVA is located – This is typically the least desirable option since attending a hearing in Washington, D.C. may require you to travel a long distance from your home, which can be difficult if you’re disabled.
- A video conference – The video conference will take place while you are at your local VA office. The Board members will be in Washington, D.C. You will be able to communicate with the Board by going to your local VA office and having a video conference call. This is the quickest method of getting a hearing on your case.
- A hearing at your local VA office – If you choose this option, then a board member will come to your local office.
No matter which of these options you choose, the hearing is relatively informal and fairly short. Board members, in fact, hear as many as 10 cases each day. However, you will need to present evidence to support your position on why you should receive benefits or a more severe disability rating. This evidence is often heavily relied upon by board members, so it is critical that your evidence be logically organized and compelling.
It is very helpful to have one of our veterans attorneys represent you at this hearing. Our VA lawyers can ask you questions and guide you through the presentation of your evidence. If you are not represented by one of our veteran disability lawyers, then you will simply have to tell the board member your information. The board member may ask questions, but it is not the board member’s job to help you make a compelling case.
The BVA does not make a decision immediately on your case, but instead the information you presented and a transcript of the hearing are reviewed by the board member after the hearing. The BVA can allow your claim, deny your claim, or send the case back to the local office in order to get more details.
If you’re not satisfied with the BVA’s decision, you have two options:
- File a motion for the board to reconsider your case. (This is an effective option only if there was a clear error.)
- Appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
Appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (also called the Veterans Court, USCAVC, or simply CAVC)
This is generally the last step in the VA appeal process. At this stage, you will want to contact an attorney to help you fight for your rights. The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims is a Federal Court, and appealing a claim to this level involves complex rules and procedural details.
Moving through these stages of appeals can take a very long time – typically a few years after receiving your Decision Letter from the VA. Unfortunately, while a large increase in veterans’ benefit claims was expected given the recent wars, the VA was simply not prepared to handle the large number of claims it received, which has led to a significant backlog in the adjudication of claims and appeals. It is true that the VA appeal process can take a long time. However, should a claimant be successful, benefits are typically retroactive to the claimant’s initial date of the claim and often last a lifetime.
Our veteran disability lawyers can help you move through theand make a compelling case to improve the odds of favorably resolving your claim. Our VA lawyers offer their legal services to help veterans and their families.
Don’t do it alone. Our VA disability lawyers in Kalamazoo, MI can help you achieve the best outcome for your case. If you are considering appealing the VA’s decision, request a consultation with the VA Disability Group by calling 1-844-VET-LAWS (1-844-838-5297).