- What is the Board of Veterans' Appeals?
- What is an appeal to the Board of Veterans' Appeals?
- Who can appeal?
- When can I file an appeal?
- What can I appeal to the Board?
- What can't I appeal to the Board?
- How do I file an appeal?
- Where do I file my appeal?
- What kind of information do I need to include in my appeal?
- What SHOULD I do?
- What should I AVOID?
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 Supplemental Statement of the Case (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 the 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:
- Do consider having an appeal representative assist you.
- Do file your appeal and VA Form 9 as soon as you're sure you want to appeal. (Because so many appeals are filed, delaying could add months to your wait for the Board's decision.)
- Do be as specific as possible when identifying the issue or issues you want the Board to consider.
- Do be specific when identifying sources of evidence you want VA to obtain. For example, provide the full names and addresses of physicians who treated you, when they treated you, and for what they treated you.
- Do keep VA informed of any change to your current address, phone number, or number of dependents.
- Do be aware that copies of your doctor's treatment records are generally more helpful than just a statement from the doctor.
- Do be clear (on your VA Form 9) about whether or not you want a BVA hearing and where you want it held.
- Do provide all the evidence you can that supports your claim, including additional evidence or information requested by VA.
- Do include your claim number on any correspondence you send to VA and have it ready if you call. This helps VA find your records.
- Don't try to "go it alone." Consider getting a representative. A skilled representative can save you a lot of time, help you prepare the best possible appeal, and help you avoid mistakes.
- Don't send in material that doesn't have anything to do with your claim or send duplicates of things you have already sent to VA. This will only slow down the process.
- Don't use the VA Form 9 to raise new claims for the first time. The VA Form 9 is only used to appeal decisions on previously submitted claims.
- Don't use the VA Form 9 to request a local office hearing. Write to that office instead.
- Don't raise additional issues for the Board to consider late in the appeal process, especially after your claims folder has been sent to the Board in Washington, D.C. This could well cause your case to be sent back to your local VA office for additional work and result in a longer wait for a BVA decision.
- Don't submit evidence directly to the Board unless you include a written or typed statement saying that you waive consideration of the new evidence by the local VA office and clearly indicating that you want the Board to review the evidence even though the local VA office has not seen it. If you submit evidence directly to the Board without such a waiver, the case may be remanded for review and could result in delays.
- Don't submit a last minute request for a hearing or a last minute change to the type or location of a hearing unless it is unavoidable. This almost always results in a delay in getting a final decision.
- Don't make a change to the type or location of a hearing unless it is unavoidable. This almost always results in a delay in getting a final decision.