Life Cycle of a VA Appeal

Regional Office

Veteran submits claim

VA issues initial ratings

Veteran Submits Appeal

VA issues SOC

Veteran submits VA Form9

VA issues SSOC

Certification to Board

Board

Docket Number Assigned at Board

Board Issues Final Decision

Courts

CAVC

Federal Circuit

VETERAN SUBMITS CLAIM

In order for a veteran to get disability compensation for an injury or disease, the following must be established:

  1. A current disability or disease
  2. Adequate evidence showing that the cause of the disability or disease occurred in service or resulted from an in-service event or that a disability or disease was aggravated in service.
  3. Competent evidence of a link or nexus between an in-service injury or aggravation and current disability or disease

Disabilities caused by events that occurred off-duty are usually considered to have happened in the line of duty unless the injury resulted from the veteran’s willful misconduct.

How To Submit a Claim

  • File online through your ebenefits
  • Complete VA Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits and mail it into the VA
  • For Veterans filing for pension based on needs, complete the VA Form 21-527ez, Application for Pension
  • For survivors of veterans filing, complete VA Form 21-534EZ, Application for DIC (Dependency and Indemnity Compensation)
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VA ISSUES INITIAL RATINGS

After a veteran obtains service connection for disability, the next fight is getting the correct disability rating.

VA disability ratings are generally increased in one of two situations:

Be sure that your Rating Decision includes an effective date, because you are able to appeal the effective date assigned for claims granted.

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VETERAN SUBMITS APPEAL

After you file a claim with the VA, the VA will either grant or deny benefits in a document known as a rating decision. The rating decision is the VA’s response to your claim. If you disagree with a VA decision, you can file a VA Form 21-0958, commonly known as a Notice of Disagreement. A veteran has one year from the date of the decision to submit a Notice of Disagreement. The form for the appeal is the VA Form 21-0958.

What is a Notice of Disagreement?

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VA ISSUES SOC (STATEMENT OF THE CASE)

A SOC is a "Statement of the Case", which is only issued if an appeal was submitted. An SOC explains the decision made and should provide a complete understanding of the decision.

Once a SOC is received the veteran has 60 days from the date on the SOC to submit a VA Form 9. The VA Form 9 should be enclosed within the SOC.

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VETERAN SUBMITS VA FORM 9 (SUBSTANTIVE APPEAL)

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VA ISSUES SSOC (SUPPLEMENTAL STATEMENT OF THE CASE)

A SSOC or (Supplemental Statement of the Case) is issued when new evidence has been submitted after the VAF 9 was issued.

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CERTIFICATION TO BOARD

The certification to the board is done by your regional office. During this process the veteran will be waiting for a letter stating the certification to the board has be done. This states that your claims will be going to the BVA.

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DOCKET NUMBER ASSIGNED AT BOARD USING VA FORM 9 FILING DATE

Once the Board receives the appeal, it will assign the case a docket number. The Board processes each case according to their assigned docket number.

If you are terminally ill, 75 or older, homeless or under extreme financial strain, you can ask the BVA to advance your case on the docket.

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BOARD ISSUES FINAL DECISION

The Board will review the claim(s) and identify whether or not something was missed. The Board will either grant, deny, or remand the claims.

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CAVC

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FEDERAL CIRCUIT

For veterans who were denied relief by the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC), there is an opportunity to appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals (FCCA), also in Washington, DC.

Like the CAVC, the FCCA was created by act of Congress, in October 1982, and it holds statutory authority not only to oversee the decisions of the CAVC, but also international trade, patents, trademarks, claims against the United States government, and federal personnel, to name a few. The FCCA has twelve judges appointed for life, although senior judges may continue to serve on a part-time basis after retirement.

Unlike the CAVC, which provides single-judge memorandum decisions for the majority of its adjudications, the FCCA generally reviews issues on appeal in three-judge panels. Further, unlike the CAVC, which reviews questions of law de novo but can also review questions of fact under a clearly erroneous standard, the FCCA has no jurisdiction whatsoever to review questions of fact. Thus, if an appeal hinges on a question of fact, the FCCA will deny the claim on a summary dismissal. This is an impossible hurdle in many veteran appeals. At the same time, the FCCA may review questions of law without deference to results reached by lower appellate bodies and many important cases have been resolved by the FCCA when there was no material question of fact.

From the FCCA, parties may still appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

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OPTIONAL BOARD HEARING REQUEST

When filing the VA Form 9, the veteran has the option to choose to have a hearing before the Board. The hearing can be held at the local regional office in what is called a "travel board hearing," in front of a Veteran’s Law Judge (VLJ) who is visiting the regional office. A veteran may also have a hearing by video conference with a VLJ in Washington D.C., or may travel to Washington D.C. for the hearing. The VA will not reimburse veterans for travel to a hearing, and choosing to have a hearing may delay a veteran’s claims, as the Board cannot make a decision until after a hearing has been held.

BOARD HEARING

Hearings before a Veteran’s Law Judge are relatively informal, but are conducted with the veteran and any other witnesses under oath. A VLJ will allow the veteran and other witnesses to testify or give statements, and may ask questions. Written testimony may also be submitted in lieu of attending a hearing. Once the hearing is complete, a transcript will be made a part of the record, and will be considered in making a decision.

COURT REMANDS