Overview of the Current VA Appeals Process Timeline
These are the wait times for the current VA appeals process timeline. Each step will be explained later in this guide to the VA appeals process timeline. Here is a quick overview of what to expect from the current VA appeals process timeline:
Part One: Formal Application to VA Form 9
- File VA Disability Application: Currently, Fully Developed Claims (FDC) are taking 97 days. Non-FDCs are being processed in 97 days.
- Rating Decision Letter Issued: This can vary from Regional Office to Regional Office. Generally, Rating Decisions are sent to veterans fairly quickly.
- File Notice of Disagreement (NOD): The NOD and SOC phases combined take an average of 480 days.
- Statement of the Case (SOC): The NOD and SOC phases combined take an average of 480 days.
- File VA Form 9: The Form-9 and SSOC phase takes an average of 644 days.
Part Two: The Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA)
- Supplemental Statement of the Case (SSOC): The Form-9 and SSOC phase takes an average of 644 days.
- Certification to the BVA: Certification to the Board takes an average of 288 days.
- BVA Decision Issued: The average wait time for a Board decision is 248 days.
- Potential BVA Remanded Decision: Wait times will vary greatly.
- Appeal to Court of Appeals Veterans’ Claims (CAVC): If you are denied at the BVA, you may be able to appeal to the CAVC.
Part One: VA Appeals Process Timeline From Formal Application to the VA Form 9
There are two different paths your claim can take at the VA. There is the Legacy Program and there’s the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP), which recently went into effect, earlier this year, this post only covers the Legacy Program Process Timeline.
The number of claims the VA has to deal with is staggering, some estimates put it at over 400,000 claims. Because of this, any discussion of timeframes must take this fact into consideration.
The very first step is, of course, is to file a VA disability benefits claim. You can file an informal claim, but you must follow up that informal claim with a formal claim, within one year. By doing that, you preserve what is it called the effective date.
Once your claim is filed it is sent to your Regional Office for review. That will be followed by the Regional Office issuing something called a Rating Decision, this process can take anywhere from a few months to a few years. The Rating Decision will either grant the claim or the benefit that you filed for, or it’s going to deny that benefit.
If you are fortunate enough to have your claim granted you should be mindful of several things… Did the VA assign the right effective date, and did they give you the right rating? If you disagree with their rating in any way, you need to file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) in response to your Rating Decision.
What if they denied your claim? Then obviously you’re going to need to file a Notice of Disagreement to that Rating Decision for service-connection. It is critical that if you are denied you must realize that you have one year to file your Notice of Disagreement or your claim will die, and you must start over.
After you submitted your Notice of Disagreement, to the Regional Office, they will start to look at your case, processing what is called a Statement of the Case (SOC). It then goes to a higher-level review, or what is called a DRO. The DRO will look at the evidence in your file to determine if what you filed a claim for is warranted, and then issue the Statement of the Case.
Just like the Rating Decision, there are two possible outcomes… The Statement of the Case will either grant or deny the condition that you filed a claim for. If granted, again, be mindful of several things… Did they assign the right effective date, and did they give you the right VA disability rating? If you disagree with their rating in any way, you need to file a Notice of Disagreement in response to your Rating Decision. If denied, then you want to appeal to keep the claim moving through the process, this is done by filing a VA Form 9. Don’t delay filing a Form 9 appeal because you only have 60 days to do so. If you miss your deadline, the claim is dead and… you guessed it, you have to start over.
Part Two: VA Appeals Process Timeline at The Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA)
At this point in the VA appeals process timeline you have filed your Form 9 within 60 days, so the next step is for the Veterans’ Board of Appeals (BVA) to pick up your claim. You have two options once you file your VA Form 9:
- Request Hearing: You can have an in-person hearing, where you can travel to see a judge, and the judge will take up a hearing to hear your claim.
- Waive Hearing: You can also elect to waive an in-person hearing, and send your case and then your evidence on to the BVA for review, in which case they will take it up, look at it and make a decision. We generally recommend this path for most of our clients. There really is not an upside to having a hearing. We find hearings just take longer.
It is important to keep in mind that there are a couple of different documents that you can expect from the Board of Veterans’ Appeals:
- Certification Letter: You should receive a certification letter, telling you that, they’ve certified your appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals. It’s not yet been placed on the docket of a judge, but it’s moved on from the Regional Office to the BVA.
- Docket Letter: Next they will issue a docket letter informing you that your appeal has been placed on the docket of a judge at the BVA. That docket letter (sometimes referred to as a 90 day letter) should also tell you that you have 90 days to submit any additional evidence you want the BVA to review.
Once you have submitted all of your evidence to the BVA, they will assign an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to review your case and look at all the evidence. This judge is going to make a decision, and issue a BVA decision out to you. There are three things the judge can do:
- The BVA judge may grant your claim: If you get a grant from the BVA judge, then you should expect yet another Rating Decision to follow that BVA decision. The same process starts over again, check and make sure you think the effective date is correct and make sure you think the rating is correct. If there’s anything about that Rating Decision at all that you disagree with, file a Notice of Disagreement.
- The BVA judge may deny your claim: If you get a denial from a BVA judge, you will not get a Rating Decision on that. There’s not going to be any further action taken on that claim unless you continue your appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims (CAVC).
- The BVA judge may remand your claim: BVA remanded decisions are very common, this means that the judge thinks that there’s not enough evidence to decide your claim, so the judge is going to send it back to the Regional Office for more development. If you get a remand, and the judge sends it back to the Regional Office to do more development, then you can expect a number of things. Probably you’ll get some correspondence from the Regional Office at some point letting you know they need additional exams or perhaps more record requests.
Should they look at your claim and decide they were wrong and you should be granted the condition you have filed for, then they will issue you a Rating Decision, and you start that process all over again. Look at your Rating Decision. Make sure you think it’s right. If it’s not, you file a Notice of Disagreement and continue through the VA appeals process timeline.
If after a BVA decision, the Regional Office does the development, yet still wants to deny your claim, they will issue what is called a Supplemental Statement of the Case (SSOC) that will explain why they’re continuing to deny your claim. Fortunately, in this case, you do not have to file a Form 9. Only if the BVA’s already reviewed that condition and you get a Statement of the Case, would you need to file a Form 9 within 60 days.
It is possible that the BVA judge would deny your claim, and you would disagree with that decision. You then have three options:
- File Motion to Reconsider: You can file a motion to reconsider, asking the judge to look at your case again. Perhaps you feel they have made a mistake, or there’s something they’ve done wrong, generally an error of law. If so, there is no time limit to ask the judge to conduct a reconsideration of his decision.
- Request Judge Vacate Decision: You can also ask him to vacate the decision, and redo the whole thing again. Usually, you’re going to have to have some really good reasons to get that granted.
- Appeal to CAVC: Finally, you could also certify your claims to the US Court of Appeals for Veteran’s Claims, known as the CVAC. If you want to send your case to the CVAC after a BVA decision is issued, it must be done within 120 days.
FAQ: VA Appeals Process Timeline
Can veterans expedite VA disability claims?
Yes. However, if your VA disability claim is expedited through the VA appeals process timeline, that does not mean your claim goes to the front of the line. Know that expedited VA disability claims can take a long time to reach a final decision. Veterans can expedite VA disability claims due to financial hardship, terminal illness, homelessness, or advanced age. Understand that many veterans request that their VA disability claims be expedited and are denied.
Do DIC claims follow the same VA appeals process timeline?
Yes. Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits for widows follow the same VA appeals process timeline like any other claim. Our VA disability lawyers find that DIC claims are often resolved quicker than many other claims because they are often single-issue claims. Generally, most DIC claims are being appealed because the VA said the veteran’s death was not service-connected. That is often the one big issue in DIC claims.
Can I file new evidence during the VA appeals process timeline?
Yes. For example, veterans that were denied service-connection for their disabilities often need to submit a nexus letter to prove their conditions are related to service. However, understand that there are proper times to file new evidence during the VA appeals process timeline. Generally, veterans need to submit new evidence during their appeals because they did not prove their service-connected disabilities were related to service or the severity of their conditions during the initial application process.
How do I let the VA know I am wanting TDIU benefits?
Veterans who wish to obtain Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits need to submit TDIU Form 21-8940 to the VA. There are different stages in the VA appeals process timeline where veterans need to file this form because it depends upon the status of your claim. To learn more about when you should file your form, click on the link to the form above. That article will explain the TDIU form in great depth.
Learn More: Calculate your rating with our VA Disability Benefits Rating Calculator
Get Help With the VA Appeals Process Timeline From Woods & Woods
After reading through this article you probably realized the VA appeal process timeline is a lot more complicated than you thought. You now probably understand why veterans are denied repeatedly. There are a lot of moving parts, deadlines, and requirements throughout the intricate VA appeals process timeline. Too many veterans are denied VA disability benefits just because they missed a deadline, did not know how to submit evidence, did not know what evidence to use, or simply did not understand the lengthy VA appeals process timeline.
Take a deep breath. Talk to a VA accredited disability attorney at Woods & Woods. We can handle the entire VA appeal process timeline for you. Since 1985, Woods & Woods has successfully represented thousands of disabled veterans. Our VA disability compensation lawyers have filed thousands upon thousands of appeals against the VA. We know how to get veterans and their families through the complex VA appeals process timeline.
When you hire Woods & Woods, you don’t just get a veterans disability benefits lawyer, you get a whole team of support staff working on your claim. Your team will coordinate interviews with doctors for new evidence, Case Analysts will review your medical records and C-File, Case Managers will contact you with updates, Lay Statement Writers will reach out to family and friends for statements, and more. Our system has helped thousands of disabled veterans obtain the benefits they deserve.
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Woods & Woods never charges for help with your VA disability benefits application. If you obtain VA disability benefits through our help with the application, there is no fee! We have helped thousands of veterans obtain VA disability benefits and rating increases at no cost by assisting them with the application.
You Only Pay if Appeal is Successful
If you are not happy with your rating and decide to hire Woods & Woods, we will not ask for money upfront. Our VA benefits appeals lawyers only get paid if your appeal is successful. Our fee is a percentage of backpay and case expenses. If your appeal is not successful, you pay Woods & Woods nothing. Our fair fee structure allows all veterans, rich or poor, to afford a lawyer.
Free VA Claim Consultations
If you want to have a conversation about your VA disability appeal, Woods & Woods offers free legal consultations to any veteran, their family members, or caretaker. There is never a fee to call and ask questions. Woods & Woods will not charge clients or potential clients for phone calls. If you need help, please feel free to reach out to us by clicking the link below. We look forward to helping you understand your legal options.