WHAT IS THE APPEALS PROCESS?
The VA appeals process is unique
because it’s structured to support the
Veteran, contains many layers of review, and the file is always open to new and updated evidence.
The multi-stage appeals process begins when an NOD is filed and a new adjudicator reviews the evidence and issues a Statement of the Case (SOC) -- a detailed explanation of how VA arrived at its prior decision
or a new rating decision granting the claim.
After the SOC is issued, the Veteran generally has 60 days to file a formal appeal to the Board by submitting a VA Form 9.
The Board conducts a completely new review of the case without taking into account prior decisions. The Board may grant the appeal, deny the appeal, or remand (send back) the appeal for further action at the local level.
Veterans who disagree with Board decisions may file an appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims usually within 120 days from the date the Board issues a decision. If they disagree with
decision, they may appeal to the Federal Circuit and all the way up to the Supreme Court.
If at any point the Veteran misses an appeal window, he or she may reopen the claim at the local VA Regional Office by submitting new evidence.
Throughout this process, Veterans may submit new evidence supporting their claim, which requires another complete review of the full record and a decision that takes into account that new evidence.
The open record allows appellants to repeat cycles in the process and keep the record open indefinitely.
The VA Appeals process gives Veterans multiple opportunities to either provide VA with the evidence that would allow it to grant the appeal, or to notify VA of the existence of such evidence, and VA has an affirmative duty to assist Veterans in developing the record in support of his or her case. Each Veteran who appeals receives at least two decisions from VA (i.e., the initial decision and the SOC).
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Historically, 12% of Veterans appeal their claims by filing an NOD
in the past 4 years, VA has decided over 4M claims. While the number of appeals has grown, the rate of appeals filed each year has remained about the same.
This statistic is consistent and does not reflect inaccuracies at the initial decision point - a large percentage of appeals are undergoing development of evidence that was identified or submitted after the initial decision was made at the local level. The number of appeals filed with VA continues to grow proportionately with the number of claims received and completed. Since 1996, the Board has consistently received four to six percent of all claims completed by VBA.
CALL TO ACTION
The appeals process can be long, but it is designed to be as pro-Veteran as possible, affording Veterans every opportunity to provide VA with the evidence needed to grant the appeal.
While Veterans have the right to appeal for any reason, the best way to avoid this lengthy process is by submitting all evidence early in the process
at the time the claim is filed
so that the initial decision can be made by taking all evidence into account.