Matt Hill: Welcome to another Hill & Pontin VA Disability Blog. My name’s Matthew Hill and I’m here with …
Carol Ponton: Carol Pontin.
Matt Hill: Today we’d like to talk to you about the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. What it is, how you get there, and what do you do there.
Carol Ponton: This is a real problem because I want to explain how the appeal process works because many veterans lose one of their most basic rights to appeal. When you file the claim, it’s with the Regional Office, so say it’s in Florida, it’s St. Petersburg. If they approve your case, great, but if they deny it, I think that most veterans know that you file a notice of disagreement, which is the appeal.
That means that the Regional Office is going to make another decision, and they could approve it or they could deny it. This time, if they deny it, you get what’s called a statement of the case. This is where a lot of veterans don’t go forward when they should A statement of the case gives you a right to go to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in Washington. That’s called the Board of Veterans’ Appeals or the BVA. What you do is file what’s called a VA form 9.
Matt Hill: I’d say one of the problems I see is that by the time a veteran gets a statement of the case, we can be anywhere from 2 to 4 years down the road from when they filed, and they’re very discouraged. With the NOD, that first appeal they file, they get a year, but-
Carol Ponton: To file the appeal.
Matt Hill: To file the appeal, but once you get to the SOC, you only get …
Carol Ponton: You only have 60 days. That means 60 days, so as soon as you see that SOC, you need to file a VA-9. VA-9 is very easy to file and you don’t have to go to Washington, you don’t have to go anywhere. You can have a hearing that’s local or you can not have a hearing and just the Board of Veterans Appeal look at all the evidence that’s in the file. You should go that extra step, that’s where a lot of veterans don’t go and they lose all these past due benefits they’ve been asking for all along.
Matt Hill: The other thing about the Board of Veterans’ Appeals is the first time you have a judge, an actual attorney review your case in light of all the law. There are cases that are really easy, the Regional Offices get and it’s no big deal, but if you have a more complicated case, you want a judge looking at it because they’re going to understand what laws apply and what laws don’t.
Carol Ponton: My veterans are always saying, “What about the benefit of the doubt? What about all of these other issues,” that they come up with, well, maybe the Regional Office doesn’t do a very good job, but the Board of Veterans’ does a much better job with a lot of laws that people read about, but you don’t see them applied so much at the Regional Office.
Matt Hill: The bitter irony we’ve seen before is that people have stopped appealing, they get that statement of the case, they give up or they’re told sometimes, a lot of times, the Veterans’ Service Office will say, “Well, it’s just easier and quicker to get a decision if you just start a new claim and you don’t appeal.” Well, if you were denied once, unless you have some incredible evidence to give to the Regional Office, you’re most likely going to be denied again, and then we’re talking another 2 to 4 years down the line before you’re even allowed to appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals is a very important part of the VA scheme and we would say, think twice before you-
Carol Ponton: Please appeal, and remember, getting a decision quickly … What if you get a decision, so you get benefits starting today. You’ve missed 5 years of benefits. Is that really what you want to do? You really need to think. This is your case, these benefits are yours, and you’re entitled to them, but you’ve got to give that board a chance to look at your file.
Matt Hill: Thanks for joining us today.