The Board of Veterans' Appeals (also known as "the BVA" or "the Board") is a part of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), located in Washington, D.C. "Members of the Board" review benefit claims determinations made by local VA offices and issue decisions on appeals. These Board members, attorneys experienced in veterans' law and in reviewing benefit claims, are the only ones who can issue Board decisions. Staff attorneys, referred to as Counsel or Associate Counsel, are also trained in veterans' law. They review the facts of each appeal and assist Board members.
An appeal is a request for a review of a VA determination on a claim for benefits issued by a local VA office.
Anyone who has filed a claim for benefits with VA and has received a determination from a local VA office is eligible to appeal to the Board of Veterans' Appeals.
You may file an appeal up to one year from the date the local VA office mails you its initial determination on your claim. After that, the determination is considered final and cannot be appealed unless it involved clear and unmistakable error by VA.
You may appeal any determination issued by a VA regional office (RO) on a claim for benefits. Some determinations by VA medical facilities, such as eligibility for medical treatment, may also be appealed to the Board. You may appeal a complete or partial denial of your claim or you may appeal the level of benefit granted. For example, if you filed a claim for disability and the local office awarded you a 10% disability, but you feel you deserve more than 10%, you may appeal that determination to the Board.
Decisions concerning the need for medical care or the type of medical treatment needed, such as a physician's decision to prescribe (or not to prescribe) a particular drug or order a specific type of treatment, are not within the Board's jurisdiction. (Occasionally, the Board receives an appeal of this nature, but since it doesn't have the legal authority to decide this type of case, the Board must dismiss it.)
No special form is required to begin the appeal process. All that's needed is a written statement that (1) you disagree with your local VA office's claim determination and (2) you want to appeal it. This statement is known as the Notice of Disagreement, or NOD.
Normally, you file your appeal with the same local VA office that issued the decision you are appealing, because that is where your claims file (also called a claims folder) is kept. However, if you have moved and your claims file is now maintained at a local VA office other than the one where you previously filed your claim, you should file your appeal at the new location.
It is important that you send VA any evidence that supports your argument that its determination on your claim was wrong. If you have additional evidence, such as records from recent medical treatments or evaluations that you feel make your case stronger, you can submit the evidence to the office holding your claims folder. An appeal representative can also submit additional written information in support of your claim.
If your file is still at the local VA office and you send your new evidence there, it will send you a SSOC if it still does not allow your claim after reviewing the new evidence. The new evidence you submitted will be included in your claims folder and considered when th Board reviews your appeal.
If you want the Board to consider your new evidence without sending your case back to the local VA office, include a written statement saying that you waive local VA office consideration of your new evidence and that you want the Board to review the evidence even though the local VA office hasn't seen it. Otherwise, there could be a considerable delay while the Board sends your new evidence back to the local VA office to consider.
If you intend to appeal: