The VA’s Regional Offices often make mistakes when evaluating veterans’ disability benefits claims. Due to these errors the VA may wrongly deny a veteran’s claims or award benefits at an incorrect disability percentage.
If a veteran disagrees with the VA’s initial decision, known as a Rating Decision, the veteran may appeal. This initial appeal is known as a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). If the Regional Office fails to grant the disability benefits that the veteran seeks in the NOD, the veteran can further appeal his or her case to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA).
When an appeal reaches the BVA, an administrative judge will review the VA’s decision for errors. At this stage, a veteran has the opportunity to show the BVA the VA Regional Office failed to consider important facts or misapplied the law.
What Happens During BVA Appeals?
In order to appeal the VA’s initial decision, a veteran must file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) with the VA Regional Office within one year after the VA issues the decision. The NOD must be submitted through VA Form 21-0958 and should include specific information about why the VA made a mistake when it denied the veteran’s claim or gave an inadequate disability rating.
A veteran may need to take additional action after the VA receives the NOD. For instance, the veteran may need to send evidence to the VA that supports the claim such as medical records or a “buddy statement” from a fellow service member who witnessed the veteran’s injury and can corroborate the date, time, location and circumstances surrounding it.
A veterans’ benefits attorney from Berry Law Firm can help you to develop your case, locate additional evidence and make legal arguments based on the evidence.
Overview of the BVA Appeal Timeline
The VA Regional Office will send a Statement of the Case (SOC) after it receives a veteran’s NOD. The SOC explains the evidence, laws and regulations that the VA used in its claim decision. The office will include VA Form 9 with the SOC. In order to continue the appeal, a veteran must fill out this form and send it back to the Regional Office within 60 days after it sends the SOC.
- After submitting the VA Form 9 appealing the review officer’s second decision or SOC, the review officer will issue you a 90 day letter stating that the BVA has received your case. With this letter, you have “90 days” to submit any additional evidence for the BVA to consider in reviewing your claim.
- An appeal to the BVA marks the second level in the appeals process. It is called a “substantive appeal.” At this stage, a Veterans Law Judge (VLJ) will review a veteran’s case de novo, or give it a “fresh look.”
- When a veteran presents his or her case to BVA, the veteran must explain:
- Each specific issue raised on appeal
- Why the veteran appealed those issues
- Why the veteran disagrees with the VA Regional Office’s decision
- What facts the office got wrong and/or how it misapplied the law
- What disability rating would satisfy the veteran.
- A veteran can request a hearing before the BVA. However, a hearing request can delay adjudication of the veteran’s claim. In your case, a Berry Law Firm attorney can advise you on whether you should ask for a hearing.
- After the BVA reviews all of the evidence and arguments, the BVA will:
- Affirm the VA Regional Office’s decision
- Reverse the decision and enter its own decision
- Remand, or send back, the claim to the Regional Office for further development of the case.
- Enter a decision that combines all or some of the above.
- If the BVA believes the case is fully developed, the BVA will render a decision. However, if the BVA finds that the case must be further developed – for instance, the file lacks certain medical evidence – the BVA will remand it to the VA Regional Office.
In some cases, the BVA finds that a veteran has a service-connected disability, remands the case and orders the Regional Office to calculate the veteran’s disability rating.
If a veteran disagrees with the BVA’s decision, the veteran can appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC), which marks the third level of the appeals process.
How Can Our VA Disability Benefits Lawyers Help You Appeal?
The veteran disability claims attorneys of Berry Law Firm can ensure your appeal persuasively states your case and provides the BVA with the evidence it needs to render a decision on your claim. We will show the BVA where the VA Regional Office got the facts wrong or misapplied the law and explain why you deserve benefits.
Berry Law Firm also maintains a thorough catalog of research, case law, and medical studies that can help establish a link between an event and your impairment or a link between related medical conditions.
We know what it takes to prove that a veteran suffers from a current illness or injury that is connected to his or her service. We also know what goes into establishing a veteran’s proper disability rating.
The VA has accredited Berry Law Firm attorneys to represent veterans in disability benefits claims. We have obtained millions of dollars in disability benefits for thousands of U.S. military veterans. We work with veterans across the country. Contact us today to discuss your case.