The VA Claims process can be long and confusing. Below is a simplified overview of the appeals process.
The three main entities that handle a claim and its subsequent appeals are the VA Regional Office, the Board of Veterans Appeals, and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
- Initial Decision
You begin by filing a claim for benefits with the Regional Office (RO). The rating board within the RO then issues an initial decision which either grants, partially grants, or denies benefits.
- Notice of Disagreement
You have one year from the date of the initial decision to let the RO know that you do not agree with what they decided. You do that by filing a Notice of Disagreement (NOD), which indicates you wish to appeal their decision.
- Appeal Path Election
The RO will send you a letter confirming they received your NOD, and the next step is choosing which appeal path you wish to take, either A. Traditional Review or B. Review by a Decision Review Officer. You have 60 days to respond to this letter and select an option.
- Traditional Review is when someone new reviews your decision, a rating officer from the rating board that was not involved with your initial claim. This is not a person from the RO appeals team. They may issue a new decision or agree with the previously issued decision.
- A Decision Review Officer (DRO) is a supervisor on the RO appeals team. You may select either a formal or informal hearing with a DRO. They will then review the appeal and issue a new decision.
- Statement of the Case
The RO can either issue a new decision in the form of a Rating Decision, or if it upholds its prior decision it issues what is known as a Statement of the Case.
- Appeal- VA Form 9
If you still do not agree with whatever decision the RO makes, the next step is to appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA). To do that, you submit a VA Form 9 which indicates that you are appealing your decision to the BVA. You have 60 days from the date of the Statement of the Case to file the VA Form 9.
- BVA Decision
The BVA will then issue its decision, either a grant, remand, or denial. A remand means it is sending the case back down to the RO and instructing them to reconsider the claim and make a new decision.
- Appeal- CAVC
If the BVA denies your appeal, you have 120 days from the date of the BVA decision to appeal to the next court, the Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims (CAVC). The CAVC is a federal court and is not a part of the VA. At this point, the issue is not one of fact but of the law. You would need to prove that the Veterans Law Judge of the BVA made a legal error in denying the claim, or that the VA made in an error in its decision. This court can then also grant, deny, or remand to the BVA where the claim continues.
Keep in mind that the appeals process is lengthy so have patience as your claim goes through each step.