The VA defines a Statement of the Case as “an explanation of the decision made on the appellant’s case.” More specifically, the VA says a Statement of the Case “provides the appellant with a complete understanding of the decision so the appellant can prepare an effective substantive appeal with specific allegations of errors of fact or law.” Most people find those explanations as clear as mud and continue to wonder what it actually is?
A Statement of the Case is a document from the VA relating to claims on appeal from a Notice of Disagreement. In other words, once a Veteran has received an initial decision on their claim for VA disability compensation via a Rating Decision and appealed it via a Notice of Disagreement, a Statement of the Case is issued to talk about the VA’s position regarding the appeal.
A Statement of the Case is usually so similar looking to a Rating Decision many people have a hard time telling them apart. However, it is critical to know the difference because the deadlines to appeal the two decisions are vastly different. A Rating Decision may be appealed within a year, whereas a response to a Statement of the Case must be filed within 60 days. So how can one tell the two apart?
Like a Rating Decision, a Statement of the Case will be mailed with a cover letter, usually two or three pages long. After that cover letter, the first page of the Statement of the Case will start by listing the relevant claims or issues on appeal. Then, it will provide a list of evidence, followed by “adjudicative actions,” which serves as a timeline of the case from the date of military service. The next section will contain the laws, rules, and regulations applicable to the claims, followed by the decision on the claims themselves. A Statement of the Case will usually be longer than a Rating Decision, typically ten pages or longer. To further help identify the documents, “Statement of the Case” is written at the top of every page.
In most cases, the Statement will continue the previous decision on the claim, usually a denial. That is because a Statement of the Case does not need to be issued if the VA decides to grant the claim in full. For example, if a Veteran appeals a denied claim for service connection and the VA grants that service connection, the appeal is over. The VA will issue a Rating Decision instead to outline the grant. However, there are many times the Statement of the Case contains a grant of benefits that is not a full grant of claims. For instance, if a Veteran appeals for a higher rating, the Statement might increase the rating, but the issue will remain on appeal because it has not reached the maximum allowable rate for the claim.
You may be wondering: if the issues have already been appealed from the original Rating Decision, why does the Statement of the Case require a response at all? Nothing usually changes in the decision, after all, so wouldn’t it remain on appeal? Sadly, that is not the case. To continue the appeal, one must file a VA Form 9, which will signal the Veteran’s election to remove the claims from the Regional Office and send them to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals for further appellate review.
The substance of a Statement of the Case, typically found in the final few pages, outlines the reasoning behind the denied claims. In theory, a Statement of the Case should notify the Veteran of the remaining problems preventing their entitlement to a benefit. Perhaps the VA never received a form they needed to prove the claim or a medical opinion contained unfavorable facts. The Statement of the Case should give the Veteran plenty of notice so that they can respond, shore up the holes in their case, and give themselves every opportunity to succeed at the Board.
To sum up everything so far, a Statement of the Case is essentially a long Rating Decision with a shorter timeline to appeal and a bunch of legalese. The stakes are higher because the appeal deadline is shorter, and the information provided is critical to proving a case. So, what is a Supplemental Statement of the Case?
A Supplemental Statement should only ever be issued for claims which have previously been covered in a Statement of the Case and which are still on appeal. A Supplemental Statement can be issued before or after the Board of Veterans’ Appeals makes their decision. If the Board remands a claim back to the Regional Office for further development, that development will be outlined in a Supplemental Statement.
It is important to note that a response is almost never required for a Supplemental Statement. Unlike a Statement of the Case, it usually will not come with a hard deadline. However, it is important to note the argument presented within the Supplemental Statement and respond accordingly. It might point out evidence which can be given or arguments which can help bolster a claim on appeal.
Berry Law’s team of VA attorneys are experienced in handling VA appeals. As a Veteran owned and operated firm, we are committed to assisting Veterans in receiving the VA benefits they deserve. If you or somebody you know has received a Statement of the Case and need(s) assistance further appealing your claim, contact our team today.
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