When the VA denies a disability claim or gives a rating a veteran disagrees with, veterans have one year to file an appeal in the current appeal system. There are three methods of appealing–one of them is through the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). When veterans pick this route, they choose from three options: a direct review, evidence submission, or a hearing.
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In this article about BVA appeals:
- Types of VA appeals
- How to appeal to the BVA
- What is the direct review docket?
- What is the evidence submission docket?
- Should you schedule a BVA hearing?
- How long do BVA decisions take?
- What do I do if I get a remand letter from the VA?
- What if I disagree with a BVA decision?
- How Woods and Woods can help:
Types of VA appeals
Veterans have several options when it comes to appealing a rating decision. Claims denied before Feb. 19, 2019, that are still in the appeals process, are handled within the legacy system. All others can choose from three lanes within the Appeals Modernization Act (AMA) process: higher-level review, supplemental claim, or appeal with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). In addition, the BVA lane itself has several options to choose from: a direct review, evidence submission, or a hearing.
There is no “best method” for appealing that fits all claims. Choosing a method is a personal decision that veterans should make based on the specifics of their situation. When deciding which lane to choose, consider working with a VA-certified disability benefits lawyer, like the team at Woods and Woods. They can determine the right method to get you the benefits you deserve.
When veterans do not have any additional information to submit but believe the VA made an error in their disability claim decision, they may choose to pursue a higher-level review. This is one of the two decision review lanes that are handled by VA regional offices, which are under the guidance of the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).
When a higher-level review is requested, a senior claims adjudicator at a VA regional office is assigned to review the same forms and evidence initially submitted and search for any errors that may have resulted in an incorrect denial. To request a higher-level review, veterans or their VA-certified disability attorney must complete form VA 20-0996.
When veterans have new and relevant evidence to support their case, they may file a supplemental claim. Then, a reviewer at a VA regional office will re-evaluate the case with the additional evidence to determine if they should revise the initial decision.
To appeal by filing a supplemental claim, veterans or their VA-certified disability attorneys must complete form VA 20-0995.
The decision to appeal a case through the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) comes with additional choices. When a veteran picks this method, a Veterans Law Judge–an administrative law judge–will review the case.
Veterans appealing through the BVA choose from three options:
- Direct review: A review of existing evidence with no hearing and no additional evidence submission
- Evidence submission: A review of new and relevant evidence with no hearing
- Hearing: A hearing, with or without new evidence
How to appeal to the BVA
Filing a BVA appeal begins by filing VA form 10182 where veterans select which of the three BVA methods they choose.
“You may hear it referred to as a decision review request, board appeal, notice of disagreement, or NOD,” said VA-certified disability benefits lawyer Krystal Lechner. “It’s important to note that you shouldn’t confuse the new NOD with the former notice of disagreement under the legacy system.”
NOD appeals will be decided by a member of the BVA, who are called Veterans Law Judges (VLJ).
“The VLJ will review your decision de novo,” Lechner said. “In other words, brand new. They’ll start from the beginning and are not beholden to previous reviews done at the lower levels.”
What is the direct review docket?
A direct review is an option for veterans in the BVA lane who would like to request a board review without presenting additional evidence and without a hearing. The board will decide based on evidence already submitted in the claim.
What is the evidence submission docket?
The evidence submission option within the BVA lane is available for veterans who would like to submit additional evidence. Veterans must supply new and relevant evidence within 90 days of filing the appeal. In this option, the BVA will review the evidence and make a decision. Like the direct review option, there is no hearing scheduled when using this method.
Should you schedule a BVA hearing?
“You have a right to be heard,” said VA-certified disability benefits lawyer Zack Evans. “One method you can choose within the BVA lane is the hearing. With this option, you can appear physically or virtually at a hearing in front of the BVA.”
Veterans can submit additional evidence when choosing the BVA hearing option, but it is not required.
Veterans will be notified of the scheduled time and location of their hearing at least 30 days in advance. The board also offers a virtual tele-hearing option.
The board has narrow and strict rules about rescheduling hearings. If a veteran does not show up, the request for a hearing is usually considered withdrawn.
How long do BVA decisions take?
The average wait time varies for each method of appeal within the BVA lane. However, the BVA tracks and publishes this information. Below are the current averages for 2021 and the first half of 2022.
|Year (avg. days to complete a decision)||Direct review||Evidence submission||BVA hearing|
|Jan. – |
|375 days||492 days||578 days|
|2021||300 days||338 days||547 days|
The times vary based on the number of available judges and the number of cases on the docket. In 2021, the BVA produced 400.5 decisions per work day.
Veterans 75 and older, are experiencing homelessness, or are terminally ill are among those who may receive faster decisions by requesting priority processing. Since you might have to wait almost 2 years find out the status of your claim, you want to get it right the first time.
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What do I do if I get a remand letter from the VA?
The BVA has the option to remand an appeal. Remanded means the BVA will send an appeal back to the VA regional office for more work. The remand comes with instructions for providing missing critical information like additional records or the results of a VA medical exam that the board needs to be able to make its decision.
If action is required by the veteran, the BVA will send a remand letter in the mail directly to the veteran. After complying with their instructions and supplying and additional information, the case will be returned to the BVA. To reduce the risk of this happening and to avoid costly delays, consider working with a VA-certified disability benefits lawyer on your appeal.
What if I disagree with a BVA decision?
How Woods and Woods can help:
It can be difficult to know which method of appeal will be best for your case. Talk with the team at Woods and Woods to decide if you should appeal to the BVA, and if so, which option you should choose on your NOD. Our team of lawyers, researchers, and support staff has filed thousands of appeals for our veterans.
“Woods and Woods experience will give you the best chance to get what you deserve.“
Our family-owned law firm is dedicated to helping veterans nationwide get the VA benefits they deserve. We will file your initial VA disability application for free, and when it comes to appeals, you only pay us if we win.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Veterans appealing through the BVA choose from three options: a review of existing evidence with no hearing (direct review docket), a review of new evidence with no hearing (evidence submission docket), or a hearing in front of a BVA judge with or without new evidence (hearing docket).
A Notice of Disagreement (NOD) is the name of VA form 10182, which is required for veterans to appeal their case to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). The term NOD lane is also to describe the BVA appeals lane, or board appeal, in the VA appeals process.