Understanding all the steps involved in a veteran's claim for Disability Compensation Benefits and Pension is vital to helping the veteran. It also sheds light on the veteran's frustration with the Department of Veterans Affairs ("VA").
As with most claims for governmental benefits, the first step in this process is filing an application for benefits. A veteran files a claim for benefits or pension with their local VA. The VA will issue a rating decision usually within six months. The rating decision can be appealed if it is not satisfactory. The veteran must appeal the rating decision by sending a Notice of Disagreement to the VA Regional Office. The veteran has one year to appeal the rating decision.
The Regional Office might request that the veteran appear for a hearing before a hearings officer. These hearings are usually informal and the rules of evidence do not apply. The Regional Office will approve the veteran's appeal, send the claim for more development, or issue a Statement of the Case that explains why the appeal cannot be granted. This process can take up to two years.
If the hearing officer rules against the veteran, the veteran then has sixty days to respond and request review by the Board of Veterans Appeals ("BVA"). The veteran must complete a VA Form 9, which perfects the appeal to the BVA. The veteran can request a hearing before the BVA. The hearing can be held in Washington, D.C. or at the local Regional Office. Hearings held at the Regional Office can be in person or via videoconference. BVA hearings are also informal. It can take over two years from the time the veteran perfects his appeal to the date of the BVA hearing.
If the BVA denies the veteran's appeal, the veteran has 120 days to appeal the case to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims ("CAVC"). The CAVC is an appellate court and, unlike the BVA, the CAVC is formal. The CAVC has its own set of rules and deadlines that must be strictly adhered to. At this point, the veteran's claim becomes adversarial. The CAVC will entertain the veteran's brief explaining how the BVA erred.
If the case is denied by the CAVC, the veteran can appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. If the Federal Circuit denies the appeal, the veteran can request certiorari by the United States Supreme Court.
We here at G&C are extremely proud of our success with helping veterans receive the benefits they deserve. If any of your clients, friends, or family have any question concerning VA benefits, please call us.