The Lawyers of Brown & Roberto are serious Veterans’ disability lawyers, who know how to win. We serve Veterans with the same character and commitment with which they served our nation. We assist Veterans whose claims have been denied, or who are seeking increased ratings.
Following is an overview of the VA claims process. We apologize in advance for the length and complexity of this information. We strive to present information on our blog that is both brief and easy to understand. However, this process is neither.
Step 1: File a Claim
A claim can be filed at your local VA office, known as a Regional Office (RO), at a VA Medical facility, or online at the VA’s website. As of March 25, 2015, a Veteran who wants to file a claim for compensation has to submit VA Form 21-526EZ.
The surviving dependent of a Veteran can file a claim for dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC), death pension, and accrued benefits by filing VA Form 21-534EZ with the RO or online.
Step 2: Claim Decided
Your RO will send you a decision on the claim (the “Rating Decision”). If you are not satisfied with the Rating Decision, you have ONE YEAR from the date the decision is issued to file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD).
Step 3: Notice of Disagreement
A Notice of Disagreement (NOD) must be submitted in writing to your RO or online, and express dissatisfaction with the claims addressed in an unfavorable Rating Decision. Veterans who disagree with a rating decision must now use VA Form 21-0958, which can be supplemented by additional written arguments and objections. The NOD should express the Veteran’s desire to have the Rating Decision appealed to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). The NOD must be submitted within one year from the date the Rating Decision was issued. The Lawyers of Brown & Roberto will assist you in filing the NOD.
After submitting the NOD, the RO will eventually contact you and give you a choice of following a traditional appeals process, or of having a Decision Review Officer (DRO) from the RO review your file. If you select a DRO, that person will do a complete review of the file, as if it had not been previously reviewed, and can hold a personal hearing with you and your attorney.
The Form 21-0958 is not currently required for use by Veterans or their survivors who are seeking pension or survivor benefits (as opposed to compensation), though this may change in the future.
Step 4: Statement of the Case
After reviewing the NOD, the RO will mail you a Statement of the Case (SOC), which will provide you with a detailed explanation of the laws, evidence, and regulations used in deciding your case. In addition to the SOC, the RO will also mail you a VA Form 9 (Substantive Appeal Form) to confirm that you still want the appeal to go forward. If you DO NOT receive a Form 9 from the RO along with your SOC, contact the RO immediately, or obtain the form on line at the VA website. The Lawyers of Brown & Roberto will assist you in filing the VA Form 9.
Step 5: Substantive Appeal (VA Form 9)
Your attorney at The Lawyers of Brown & Roberto will usually prepare the Form 9 for you. This form must be filed with your RO by fax or mail, or be submitted online. You should receive a confirmation letter from the RO certifying your case to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) and allowing you 90 days, or until the Board makes a decision (whichever comes first), to submit evidence to the Board in support of your claim. After that time, your claim will be on the waiting list until it is assigned for review (where no hearing has been requested), or a hearing is held by an attorney (“Judge”) who works for the BVA. Unfortunately, the wait time before the BVA gets to your case can be quite lengthy.
The RO must receive your Form 9 WITHIN 60 DAYS of the date they mailed you the SOC, or WITHIN 1 YEAR of the date they mailed you the original decision, whichever date is later.
In filling out the Form 9, you can ask for a personal hearing with a Judge from the BVA. This hearing may be at the RO, or by video conference. An attorney from The Lawyers of Brown & Roberto will prepare you for the hearing and present your case, either in writing or by attendance at the hearing.
Step 6: Decision by Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA)
The BVA will eventually review the case. Appeals are reviewed in the order in which the Form 9 is received by the BVA (which determines the “docket date”). As a result, it could take 2 years or more for a claim to be reviewed and a hearing to be held, and even longer for a decision to be made.
The BVA will mail you the decision: either your claim will be granted, denied, or remanded (returned) back to the RO for further action. Typically, even if the BVA grants a claim, the case is remanded back to the RO to determine the percentage of disability assigned to the rating, as well as the effective date of the award.
If your claim is denied, and you wish to continue the appeal, you have several options at this point.
- Try to reopen the claim with “new and material evidence” at your RO and start the entire process over again.
- Ask the Board to reconsider its decision or review the case based on error.
- Appeal the decision to the U. S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC).
Step 7: Appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
If the BVA denies a claim, an appeal may be filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC), which has exclusive jurisdiction (authority) to review adverse decisions from the BVA. This special Federal Court of Appeals, which only handles Veterans’ cases, will review the record to determine if the BVA decision was “clearly erroneous.”
The CAVC is not a trial court. There are no witnesses and no new evidence can be submitted. Previously, there were no VA attorneys who were formally designated to oppose the Veteran, but that situation changes at this point at the CAVC. The VA will be represented by attorneys who will likely oppose your appeal and who will seek to have the Court affirm the decision of the BVA, effectively ending your appeal.
In limited cases, if you lose at the CAVC, you may be able to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. In even rarer cases, a Veteran’s case might be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Do you need a Veterans Disability lawyer? Call today for a free consultation.
The Lawyers of Brown & Roberto are serious lawyers, who know how to win. You may try to navigate the VA process on your own, or with the help of a Veterans Service Officer from a variety of VA organizations, or you can contact us today to schedule your free consultation. We will discuss your case with you, answer any questions that you have, and advise you on your best course of action. Our office is conveniently located in Knoxville with plenty of free parking. Call (865) 691-2777 or use the convenient contact form below.
Visit our blog for more content on Veterans Disability claims.
*Substantial portions of this material were prepared by the National Organization of Veterans Advocates (NOVA), and was copyrighted, 2013. This material has been edited and updated, and is used with NOVA’s permission. However, NOVA is not responsible for the content here, or the edited content, and NOVA is not providing any legal advice of any kind to any reader. The edited content was copyrighted by The Lawyers of Brown & Roberto, 2015. All of the material here is considered promotional or advertising material and is not legal advice. If you have a specific legal question about your VA claim, please consult one of The Lawyers of Brown & Roberto.