Veterans appealing VA decisions under the new Appeals Modernization Act (AMA) have the opportunity to appeal VA decisions in one of three different ways. They can appeal by requesting a higher level review, appeal in the supplemental claim lane, or appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA). If you appeal to the Board, they will likely schedule a hearing. Here is what you should know when preparing for this hearing.
The hearing will occur in one of four ways: at your local Regional Office, where both you and the judge appear in person; at the Regional Office, where you appear in person, but the judge videoconferences in; at the actual Board offices in Washington, D.C.; or, due to COVID-19, a virtual hearing, where the Veteran calls or videoconferences into the hearing from home.
Hearings in Washington D.C. are rare, and are probably something you would only want to do if you live nearby. Otherwise it is more likely that the hearing will be at your regional office or through remote videoconferencing software.
It is important that you are well prepared for your hearing. Double check which of your claims are at the Board, as some of your claims may still be at the regional office. You do not want to spend time talking about claims that the judge has no authority to make a decision on.
If you have buddy statements, medical studies, records, or independent medical opinions that you have not previously submitted to the VA, you may want to bring those to the hearing as well. Do not bring your only copy. If the hearing is done remotely, ask the judge not to make a decision until you have time to submit the evidence to the VA.
If you have a spouse or a buddy that can attend the hearing and attest to the in-service events, the history of your symptoms, or the severity of your disability, that can also be helpful.
If you are represented by an attorney or a Veterans’ Service Organization (VSO), your representative will want to attend the hearing with you. Your representative will typically guide the judge about what arguments you are making and what evidence you are presenting at the hearing.
You have the right to have your representative with you at the hearing. However, the representative cannot attend the hearing in your absence. If you are not able to make a hearing, it is better to reschedule the hearing or to request a virtual hearing from home.
Your representative may even decide that a hearing is not necessary if all the important evidence and arguments can be submitted to the VA on paper.
A Board hearing is informal, so there is no standard practice or procedure that you must follow at the hearing. The judge will not give you a decision at the end of the hearing, but instead will write his or her opinion in a few months.
Berry Law gets Veterans the disability benefits they earned. Founded by a Vietnam Veteran in 1965, the Berry Law team has been helping Veterans with legal needs for over 50 years. If you need assistance with you’re appeal at the BVA, contact Berry Law for a free case evaluation.
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