The United States Department of Veteran Appeals (“VA”) provides a broad variety of benefits and services to veterans. Among the benefits that the VA extends to veterans are various types of health care and related services.
The local VA office usually determines a veteran’s basic eligibility. If a veteran is dissatisfied with the local VA office’s decision, it can be appealed. Probably the two most common types of appeals concern (1) the VA’s denial of benefits for a disability that the veteran believes is service-connected; and (2) the VA’s rating a disability as less severe than the veteran believes is warranted.
The appeal process can be long and lengthy but here is a simplified overview of what a claim for benefits can entail.
Step One: File a claim for benefits with the local VA office
Step Two: Local VA Office issues a decision. The veteran is dissatisfied and files an appeal.
Step Three: Notice of Disagreement
If a veteran disagrees with the local VA’s decision, he/she must inform the local VA office in writing that the veteran disagrees with the VA’s determination and wishes to appeal it. It is important to remember that the veteran must inform the local VA office of his/her desire to appeal its decision NO MORE THAN ONE YEAR after the VA mails the veteran its determination of the veteran’s benefit claim.
Step Four: Statement of the Case
After the veteran notifies the local VA office of his/her desire to appeal the VA’s decision, the local VA office then sends the veteran a summary of law, evidence and reasons for the VA’s decision regarding the veteran’s benefit claim. This is known as the “Statement of the Case.”
Step Five: Substantive Appeal
The veteran must file a VA Form 9 with the local VA office NO LATER THAN 60 DAYS from the date the Statement of the Case was mailed to the veteran, or ONE YEAR from the date the VA first mailed the veteran the VA’s determination of the veteran’s benefit claim, whichever is later.
Step Six: Docketing and File Transfer
After the local VA office receives the veteran’s VA Form 9, the local VA office creates a claim folder for the veteran’s claim. Once a claim folder is created, the local VA office does the following:
1. Adds the appeal to the local Board of Veteran Appeals (“BVA”) docket; 2. Notifies the veteran when 90 days remain for submitting additional evidence and appointing or changing a representative (attorney); 3. Sends the veteran’s claim folder to the BVA when the claim folder is completed.
Step Seven: BVA Review
Once the BVA receives the veteran’s claim folder, the BVA reviews the veteran’s appeal. The BVA may conduct a hearing if requested by the veteran. If the BVA grants the veteran’s appeal, then the appeal process stops here. The BVA may also remand (send) the veteran’s appeal back to the local VA office for further development and then possible return to the BVA.
If the BVA denies the veteran’s appeal, go to step eight.
Step Eight: United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (“COA”)
If the BVA denies the veteran’s appeal, the veteran has 120 DAYS to file an appeal to the COA. The COA may decide to hear the veteran’s appeal and issue a decision. If the COA hears the veteran’s appeal and denies it, go to step nine.
Step Nine: United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit Washington, D.C. (“Federal Circuit”)
If the COA denies the veteran’s appeal, the veteran may appeal to the Federal Circuit. If the Federal Circuit denies the veteran’s appeal, go to step ten.
Step Ten: Supreme Court
If the Federal Circuit denies the veteran’s appeal, the veteran may appeal to the Supreme Court. This is the final stage in any veteran’s appeal.
It is important to remember that each veteran who files for benefits will not need to go through all ten steps to obtain benefits.