Appeals of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ benefits rulings have been taking well more than a year to resolve. At least 350,000 veterans of wars before those in Iraq and Afghanistan have outstanding appeals of benefits decisions, according to VA records.
DAV will advise you on the appeals process and represent you for free. However, it’s helpful to know what to expect.
The Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) is part of the VA, but it is separate from the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). If you have been denied disability benefits, you first seek review of the denial at the VBA Regional Office level. Next, you can appeal to the BVA.
There are three different types of BVA hearings you may have: a travel board hearing, a hearing in Washington D.C., or a videoconference hearing. These hearings are conducted in very similar fashion. But electing to use a videoconference hearing is much quicker to obtain a date, and the success rate for the appellant is even slightly better.
All of these hearings are held before a Veterans Law Judge from the Board of Veterans Appeals. The judge will have reviewed your file before the hearing and will summarize the issues you are appealing and discuss evidence that will be used during the hearing. Usually the BVA visits each regional office annually for about five days to conduct travel board hearings. Multiple hearings will be scheduled for each time slot, and hearings are conducted on a first-come, first-served basis. It is to your advantage to arrive early to be one of the first claimants to sign in so you can avoid waiting too long for your hearing.
The same as with a travel board hearing, a BVA hearing slot in Washington, D.C. will have multiple claimants scheduled. So again, the first claimant to sign in will be the first to be heard, and so on.
When you have a videoconference hearing, the Veterans Law Judge is in the hearing room in Washington, D.C., while you and your NSO are in a conference room at your local VA office.
A decision will not be rendered immediately after the hearing. You will receive your decision at a later date. The judge may send your case back to your VA Regional Office (this is called a remand) to correct errors that may have been made. Or the judge may deny your appeal or may grant your benefits to you.