If you have had any sort of interaction with the VA, you know that dealing with getting benefits and/or healthcare is a long, painstaking process that all too often ends up being fruitless. First, you have to file a claim. Your local Regional Office will then (after a long time) give you a rating decision for the claim, determining if you are service connected (and if so, what at what rating). If you disagree with this decision, you have to file a Notice of Disagreement within one year.
Then you have to wait a couple more years while your appeal goes through either a Decision Review Officer or the traditional appeals process (with a fresh set of eyes). During this stage the VA might send you notices of information they are seeking, called VCAA notices, that help them determine what their decision will be. They may even ask you to take a medical exam they call “C&P Exams” to help them with their decision. After all this work they will still probably deny your claim and send you something titled “Statement of the Case”.
At this point, it’s been years of frustrating calls and seemingly endless waiting in the hamster wheel that is your VA regional Office trying to get your claim granted. This process can be disheartening, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel: the Board of Veteran’s Appeals or BVA. Here, there is a much better chance of getting a grant of benefits from the more sophisticated and experienced Veteran’s Law Judges than you ever would at the Regional Office.
This is where the VA Form 9 comes in. Once you have a Statement of the Case in hand from your Regional Office, you can start the road to the BVA. To better understand this process, first, we have to talk about jurisdiction. Jurisdiction literally means the authority to hear a case. This is important because the BVA does not have the authority to hear your case until you have been through your Regional Office. All initial claims, and initial appeals (started through your Notice of Disagreement), are within the jurisdiction (authority) of the Regional Office. A Statement of the Case, given to a veteran by the Regional Office after an appeal, is your door to entering the jurisdiction of the BVA.
At this point, you must file a VA Form 9 to start the ball rolling—its your ticket through the door opened by the Statement of the Case. It is essential that you file this form within 60 days from the date of your Statement of the Case. If you file it after more than 60 days, you lose your chance to get to the BVA. You file this form with the Regional Office (remember they still have authority over your case), and they then have to certify your appeal to the BVA. This certification process can take a couple of months, but eventually, you will receive a notification from the Regional Office that your appeal has been certified to the BVA. At this point, congratulations! You have managed to escape the seemingly never-ending cycle of Regional Office woes and have reached the BVA.
There is more work to be done once you have reached the BVA, and that information can be found in other Hill and Ponton blog posts.