Matt Hill: Hello and welcome. I’m Matthew Hill here with Carol Ponton, with the Hill and Ponton video blog and today we want to talk to you about decisions at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Earlier we’ve spoken about how we encourage veterans to take their claim all the way to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and just to go over where that is in the whole scheme, you file your claim at the regional office, if it’s denied once and then denied twice you have an opportunity to appeal up to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Today we just want to talk about what happens there with its decision making and what it does.
Carol Ponton: Right. Since so many people don’t go to the board they don’t understand what happens when they get a decision back from them. The board can either deny your benefits and if they do then you can appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims. I don’t think their … I think a lot more cases are not denied than are denied. Okay? What happens if they don’t deny your claim? They can do one of two things. Basically they can grant your benefits or they can send the case back the regional office and tell them to do a number of things; have another C&P exam, collect more evidence, a number of things.
Matt Hill: That’s called a remand when they send it back.
Carol Ponton: It’s called a grant or it’s called a remand …
Matt Hill: Or a denial.
Carol Ponton: Often what we see is a mixture of both. Say the veteran asked for service connection for their back and service connection for unemployability. The VA may grant the service connection for the back and then send back the unemployability because once the back is rated, then that will help decide whether or not the veteran’s entitled to unemployability. What’s confusing is how the VA acts on that. When the remand comes back, if there’s a grant the grants are effectuated. They’re put into place within a couple of months usually, no more than three. The remands, where they tell the regional office, “You need to evaluate this, do a CMP exam, they are taking three years.
What they do is they bifurcate, they take it apart, they effectuate the grant, do a rating decision, pay the veteran for that, but then the rest of it sits there. This veteran who is service connected for their back would get the rating for the back, start getting paid for the back, but they would not evaluate the unemployability till they got around to it, and it’s taking three years right now.
Matt Hill: Unfortunately, for a veteran who has a decision from the board remanding there’s language in there and they’re saying that it’s supposed to be expedited by the regional office. The veterans’ court, the court of appeals for veterans’ claim has basically said that expediting means under two, two years or under. If it’s like Carol’s saying going to three years, then you have a possibility of appealing that to get them to do it quicker but in all likelihood it is going to take a couple years.
Carol Ponton: Right. Until, I think, the VA gets more help, they just don’t have the personality, the personnel to take care of all of this.
Matt Hill: They don’t have personality either.
Carol Ponton: Some of them have great personality, some of them don’t but right now I can tell you they don’t have the man power they need.
Matt Hill: When you finally get that decision, and we’re probably talking here four or five, seven years into your claim, it can be confusing but the first thing you want to look at is the conclusion, is for conclusions of law section that says were you granted or not granted the benefits you were seeking. Then if there’s a remand you want to see, what are they looking for.
Carol Ponton: You’re going to have a decision that may be thirty-eight pages long. It starts off, what does the veteran want, maybe some findings, and then there’s this huge, maybe twenty-five pages where they cite law or they cite the facts and then at the bottom they tell you what they’re going to do. “I’m granting this. You’ve found service connector for your back” or “I’m remanding and telling the regional office to do a C&P exam, collect more evidence”, whatever.
Matt Hill: Thank you for joining us today in another episode of our VA veterans’ blog. Have a great day.