What is the Board of Veterans’ Appeals? What is the Appeals Process like?

What is the Board of Veterans’ Appeals?

The Board of Veterans’ Appeals (“Board”) is an administrative tribunal within the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) that was established in 1933 to provide an appellate review process for decisions made by a VA Regional Office (“VARO”). The Board is located in Washington, D.C. The Board has jurisdiction over all matters, questions of law or fact, decided by the VARO. The VARO decision is the first decision a veteran receives on their disability claim. If a veteran disagrees with that decision, they can appeal the decision, and have it reviewed by the Board. The Board’s review is de novo, meaning that they view all the evidence as new, or without considering the RO’s decision. Board decisions are considered final, unless the veteran decides to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (“CAVC”). For more information on the CAVC and its process, click here.

Although the Board is part of the VA, it is required to view all evidence “in the light most favorable to the veteran.” Again, as part of the VA, the Board should be upholding the non-adversarial nature of the VA claims process.

Recent Changes in the Appeals Process

To discuss the Board’s process, we must discuss the changes in recent law concerning disagreements with a Regional Office (“VARO”) decision. On August 23, 2017, President Donald Trump signed the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (Appeals Modernization Act or “AMA”) into law. Subsequently, there are now two different processes that appeals may be in depending on the date of the claim decision: the legacy appeal process and the AMA appeal process.

For decisions dated on or after February 19, 2019, the appeal will be in the AMA appeal process — i.e., the new process.

For decisions dated before February 19, 2019, the appeal will be in the legacy appeal process. However, there are two steps in the legacy process that allows veterans to opt out of the legacy process and opt into the AMA appeal process if the veteran would like.

Legacy Appeals Process

As stated, to be in the legacy appeals process, a VARO decision must have been dated BEFORE February 19, 2019. Additionally, the veteran must NOT HAVE opted out of the legacy appeals process.

It is worth noting that the VA has stated that they have resolved a majority of the legacy appeals. However, with the remaining legacy appeals, the VA has implemented the Legacy Appeals Resolution Plan (“LARP”). The VA is ahead of schedule of their targeted date to conclude all legacy appeals, which was the end of 2022.

Please remember this process is only available for decisions that are dated BEFORE February 19, 2019. Additionally, this is not applicable if the veteran opted into the AMA Appeal Process.

Step 1 – Notice of Disagreement – Legacy Appeals Process

After receiving your VARO decision, the first step is to file a Notice of Disagreement (“NOD”). A NOD must be submitted on a VA Form 21-0958. This form should be included with the VARO decision. To properly appeal the decision, the veteran must completely fill out this form, list all of the claims the veteran intends to appeal, and send it back to the address provided in the instructions.

Step 2 – Statement of the Case – Legacy Appeals Process

After the VA receives the veteran’s NOD, the VARO will re-review the evidence related to the appeal. The VARO will also review any new evidence submitted or obtained on the veteran’s behalf. If the VARO decides that there is insufficient evidence to grant the appeal, then they will issue a Statement of the Case (“SOC”).

The SOC is a statement made by the VARO outlining their various findings related to the facts and law regarding the disability claim.

Additional Info about Supplemental Statements of the Case:

Veterans can submit new evidence to the VARO at any point in the Legacy Appeals Process. However, if the veteran submits new evidence after the VARO has issued a SOC, then the VARO may have to release a Supplemental Statement of the Case (“SSOC”). The date on the new SSOC will determine whether the claim is in the Legacy Appeals Process or the AMA Appeals Process. After a SSOC is issued, the process will continue below to Step 4.

Step 3 – Disagree with SOC – Legacy Appeals Process

If the veteran disagrees with the findings listed in the SOC, then they will now have to appeal to the Board.

To appeal to the Board, the veteran must fill out a VA Form 9 within 60 days from the date on the SOC. The VA Form 9 asks the veteran to identify the reason that they believe their claim was decided incorrectly. Additionally, it gives the choice to appeal certain issues from the SOC or all the issues from the SOC.

IMPORTANT: If you are in the Legacy Appeals Process and want to opt into the AMA Appeals Process, you can do so at this step of the process. If you choose to opt into the AMA Appeals Process, you will have 60 days from the date on the SOC to opt into the new decision review process. If you decide to opt into the AMA Appeals Process, then no further steps from the Legacy Appeals Process will apply to you.

Step 4 – Appeal Sent to Board – Legacy Appeals Process

The Board reviews cases in the order received, unless there are circumstances that call for an “Advanced on Docket” status for the appeal. Such circumstances include serious illness, financial distress, advanced age, or other sufficient cause. “Advanced on Docket” status gives an appeal priority over regular appeals and are reviewed in the order received.

Step 5 – Optional Board Hearing – Legacy Appeals Process

Veterans have the option to request a Board hearing. No decision will be made at this hearing, but the judge will ask the veteran certain questions. All questions and answers from the hearing will be transcribed and added to the veteran’s claims file.

Step 6 – Board Decision – Legacy Appeals Process

The Board will then decide on each claim in the appeal. Each claim will either be granted, remanded, or denied.

If the Board grants a claim, then the Board has granted the benefits the veteran was requesting, and the VARO must confirm the Board’s decision. If the Board remands a claim, then the Board has determined the claim needs more evidence or the VARO must correct an error. The claim will return to the VARO and a new decision will be made after the new evidence is received. If the Board denies a claim, then the Board did not grant the veteran the benefits they were requesting.

AMA Appeals Process

As stated, decisions dated on or after February 19, 2019, will be placed in the new AMA Appeals Process. This process was established by the Appeals Modernization Act of 2017.

There are three different decision review options available to veterans through the AMA Appeals Process: Supplemental Claim, Higher-Level Review, or Board Appeal. The best option will depend on the individual veteran’s situation.

U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs Fact Sheet on VA Appeals Modernization Decision Review Timeline.

Supplemental Claim

One option available to a veteran who disagrees with a decision made by the VARO is submitting a Supplemental Claim. To submit a valid supplemental claim, the veteran must submit “new and relevant evidence.” The VA defines new evidence as evidence “not previously part of the actual record before the agency adjudicators” and relevant evidence is evidence that “tends to prove or disprove a matter at issue in a claim.” See 38 C.F.R. § 3.2501(a)(1).

To file a supplemental claim, the veteran must fill out the Decision Review Request: Supplemental Claim (VA Form 20-0995).

Step 1 – Select benefit type in Part I, Question 12

For disability claims, the veteran would check “Compensation.” Please remember that only one benefit type can be selected. If the veteran has more than one benefit type to appeal (e.g.: compensation and insurance), then they must fill out a separate form for each.

Step 2 – List the issues you would like reviewed in Part II, Question 13

The veteran should list all the specific issues that they would like reviewed and the date the decision was made.

Step 3 – Gather new and relevant evidence to submit

The veteran can submit new and relevant evidence to the VA or identify evidence that the VA may need to gather themselves. The VA can attempt to gather evidence from any government or private medical facility. However, if the veteran needs the VA to gather records from a government facility, the veteran will need to list the name, location, and dates for the records in Part III, Question 15. If the veteran needs the VA to gather evidence from a private facility, then the veteran will need to fill out and sign VA Form 21-4142 (Authorization to Disclose Information to the VA).

Step 4 – Submit the form to the VA

Send the completed form and any supporting documentation to the VARO. The veteran can also turn the form in at the VARO in person. If requesting review of a compensation benefit, the veteran should mail the form to:

Department of Veterans Affairs

Claims Intake Center

PO Box 4444

Janesville, WI 53547-4444

Step 5 – Decision

If the veteran disagrees with the decision made through the Supplemental Claim process, they can request a Higher-Level Review of the decision or file for a Board Appeal. The veteran may also file another Supplemental Claim if they have any new and relevant evidence.

Higher-Level Review

Another option available to a veteran who disagrees with a decision made by the VARO is requesting a Higher-Level Review. A Higher-Level Review consists of having a senior claims reviewer looking at your claims file and case. Veterans CANNOT submit any new evidence in the Higher-Level Review option. However, the veteran will be given an opportunity to explain why the decision should be changed.

To file a request for Higher-Level Review, the veteran must fill out the Decision Review Request: Higher-Level Review (VA Form 20-0996).

Step 1 – Select benefit type in Part I, Question 12

For disability claims, the veteran would check “Compensation.” Please remember that only one benefit type can be selected. If the veteran has more than one benefit type to appeal (e.g.: compensation and insurance), then they must fill out a form for each.

Step 2 – Request an informal phone conference with the reviewer (Optional)

The veteran or veteran’s representative can speak with the reviewer, identify the issues, and explain why the decision should be changed. The veteran can request this informal conference on Part II of the Decision Review Request: Higher-Level Review form.

Step 3 – List the issues you would like reviewed in Part III, Question 15

The veteran should list all the specific issues that they would like reviewed and the date the decision was made.

Step 4 – Submit the form to the VA

Send the completed form and any supporting documentation to the VARO. The veteran can also turn the form in at the VARO in person. If requesting review of a compensation benefit, the veteran should mail the form to:

Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444

Step 5 – Decision

If the veteran disagrees with the decision made through the Higher-Level Review process, they can file for a Board Appeal. The veteran may also file a Supplemental Claim if they have any new and relevant evidence.

Board Appeal

Another option available to a veteran who disagrees with a decision made by the VARO is requesting a Board Appeal. A Board Appeal is an appeal to a judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) in Washington, D.C.

To file a request for a Board Appeal, the veteran must fill out the Decision Review Request: Board Appeal (VA Form 10182).

Step 1 – Select Board Review Option Part II Question 11

The veteran must select their desired review option. There are three different Board Review options the veteran can choose from:

Direct Review by a Veterans Law Judge –

This option does not allow any additional evidence to be submitted and the veteran would not have a Board hearing. However, this option is the quickest of the three Board Review options.

Evidence Submission Reviewed by a Veterans Law Judge –

This option would allow additional evidence to be submitted but the veteran would not have a Board hearing.

Hearing with a Veterans Law Judge –

This option would give the veteran the opportunity to submit additional evidence and have a Board hearing. The veteran would be required to submit any additional evidence within 90 days of the Board hearing.

Step 2 – List the issues you would like reviewed in Part III, Question 12

The veteran should list all the specific issues that they would like reviewed and the date the decision was made.

Step 3 – Submit the form to the VA

Send the completed form and any supporting documentation to the VARO. The veteran can turn the form in at the VARO in person. If requesting review of compensation benefits, the veteran should mail the form to:

Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444

The veteran may also fax the form to (844) 678-8979.

Step 4 – Decision

If the veteran disagrees with the decision made through the Board Appeal process, they may file a Supplemental Claim if they have any new and relevant evidence. If the veteran has no new evidence, they may appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The veteran cannot request the Higher-Level review option for a Board decision. For more information on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, click here.

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