The Appeals Process Glossary

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Are you submitting a VA appeal and want to have a better understanding of the terms used throughout the process? This glossary contains many of the terms commonly used in the appeal process and provides a general definition for each. 

Advance on the Docket

A change in the order in which an appeal is reviewed and decided, from the date when it would normally occur to an earlier date.

Agency of Original Jurisdiction

Another term for a local VA office.

Appellant

A person who has appealed a local VA office claim determination.

Associate Counsel

See Counsel.

Board

The Board of Veterans Appeals.

Board of Veterans' Appeals

The section of the VA that reviews benefit claims appeals and issues decisions on those appeals.

Board Member

An attorney appointed by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and approved by the President of the U.S. to decide veteran benefits appeals.

BVA

Abbreviation of Board of Veterans Appeals.

BVA Hearing

A personal hearing held at the BVA office in Washington, DC, or at a local VA office, that is conducted by a Board member. These hearing can also be held by video conference from some regional offices.

Claim

A request for veterans' benefits.

Claim Number

A number assigned by the VA that identifies a person who has filed a claim; often called a "C-number." The VA now uses the veteran's Social Security number for tis purpose, but older files still bear the "C-number."

Claims File or Claims Folder

The file containing all documents concerning a veteran's claim.

Counsel

Counsel and Associate Counsel are attorneys skilled in veterans' law who assist Board members in preparing decisions. They are like law clerks who help judges.

Decision

The product of the BVA's review of an appeal. A decision might, for example, grant or deny the benefit or benefits claimed, or remand the case back to the local VA office for additional action.

Determination

A decision on a claim made by a local VA office.

Docket

A listing of appeals that have been filed with the BVA. Appeals are listed in numerical order, called docket number order, based on when a VA Form 9 is received by the local VA office.

File

To submit written material, usually by mailing it or delivering it in person.

Issue

Something specific you want the Board to grant you when it reviews your appeal. For example, if you filed an appeal asking the Board to grant you service connections for a heart disorder and a knee disability, and grant you a higher disability rating for an already service-connected shoulder disability, the appeal would be said to contain three issues.

Motion

A legal term used to describe a request that the Board take some specific action in processing your appeal (such as advance your case on the docket), or that it give you permission to do something concerning your appeal (such as send in evidence late in the appeal process). The Board's "Rules of Practice" tell you when a motion is required, what a particular motion should include and where you should file it. Most motions must be in writing.

Personal Hearing

A meeting, similar to an interview, between an appellant and a VA official who will decide an appellant's case, during which testimony and other evidence supporting the case will be presented. There are two types of personal hearings: local office hearings (also called regional office hearings or hearing officer hearings) and BVA hearings.

Remand

The action the Board takes in returning an appeal to the local VA office where the claim originated. This action is taken when something else needs to be done before the Board can make a decisionin an appeal.

Representative

Someone familiar with the VA's benefit claim process who assists claimants in the preparation and presentation of an appeal. Most representatives are Veterans Service Organization employees who specialize in veterans benefit claims. Other individuals such as lawyers may also serve as appeal representatives.

Simultaneously Contested Claim

A simultaneously contested claim is a claim where more than one person is trying to get a VA benefit or status that only one of them can have. Examples might be two people each claming they are entitled to all of the proceeds of the same life insurance policy, or two people each asking to be recognized as a particular veteran's lawful surviving spouse.

SOC

Abbreviation for Statement of the Case.

Statement of the Case

This is a document prepared by the local VA office processing your appeal. It gives you a summary of the evidence considered in your case, a listing of the laws and regulations used to decide your claim, and an explanation of why the local VA office decided your claim as it did. Reviewing the SOC will help you prepare your substantive appeal.

SSOC

Abbreviation for Supplemental Statement of the Case.

Supplemental Statement of the Case

An update to an SOC prepared when the VA receives new evidence, or a new issue is added to an appeal, after the SOC was prepared.

Testimony

This is the legal term used to describe what you and others who know about the facts of your case (witnesses) say at a hearing. Basically, to "testify" at a BVA hearing just means to tell what you know about your case. VA hearings are much more informal than court hearings, so you don't need to worry about technical rules of evidence or being cross-examined when you testify.

United States Court of Appeals For Veterans Claims

An independent Federal court that reviews appeals of BVA decisions.

Veterans Service Organization (VSO)

An organization that represents the interests of veterans. Most VSOs have specific membership criteria, although membership is not usually required to obtain assistance with benefit claims and appeals. Your local VA office can provide information about VSOs serving your area.

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