So you’ve submitted your appeal to the BVA, or VA Board of Veteran’s Appeals, and now the part that Tom Petty thought was the hardest…
After receiving the docket stating your appeal had been received there had previously been an average waiting period of 270 days before your case was called, and then it could take 3-4 years to receive your decision.
However, since the VA reform titled the Appeals Modernization Act was instituted earlier this year, in February 2019, reports are that the waiting periods have substantially shortened. As of June 1st, the average process has been shortened to only 36 days.
(Almost makes you wonder what was taking all that time before…)
Under the new system, veterans have one year to appeal an unfavorable decision by filing a Notice of Disagreement to the BVA.
During the time of the previous appeals system, veterans who filed an appeal were required to overcome many different hurdles such as filing additional forms and undergoing additional VA processing. Now those additional steps have been removed. Appeals now go directly to the Board, which the VA is hoping will prevent a backlog of claims while also significantly decreasing the veterans’ amount of wait time when it comes to getting a decision.
And so far, results are very promising.
However, whether or not the reforms are successful, there is still a waiting time. So what should you do while waiting to hear back?
Preparing for Your BVA Decision
The choices you should make during your waiting period will depend on which one of the following four options you chose when filling out your VA Form 9:
- No hearing. Choosing this option means you are deciding to send a letter to the Board which will deliver the same message you would have brought to a hearing.
- Videoconference Hearing at Local VA Office. This option requires you visiting the nearest VA Office. Often this will put you on the schedule more quickly than an in-person hearing.
- In-Person Hearing at Local VA Office. Often this will delay your hearing further, as a judge must be scheduled for travel to the office.
- In-Person Hearing at the Board in Washington, D.C. As you can imagine, despite the chance of possibly having a hearing scheduled quickly, there might be travel and other obstacles involved to make this happen if you do not live nearby.
If you selected the option to forego a hearing, then there is not much to do while waiting. Simply make sure your letter and appeal have all the evidence you believe will be needed to get a favorable review. Take the proper time to do it correctly.
For those who requested a hearing, the time between your filing of the claim and the date of your hearing is the time to prepare.
While it is likely you already submitted evidence with your appeal, it is recommended that you continue to look for more evidence to bring along with you to the hearing. Presenting additional evidence in-person is recommended instead of mailing it in. As with any case, the more evidence submitted the more likely the chances of a favorable review.
This is also a time where you may want to take the time to consider what questions you may be asked by the Board that are relevant to your situation. The more effectively you can communicate your reasons for appeal the more likely the board is to see things from your point of view.
If you feel like you are unable to prepare in a way that gives you confidence in your appeal, you may want to take this time to consider seeking legal counsel. This is not recommended for everyone, for many will not need it. But there are cases where it may be helpful, and the cost may well be worth the long-term benefits the help of a legal expert can provide to help you gain a favorable review.
What to Expect at the Hearing
As with any legal hearing, you will be asked to take an oath swearing, to tell the truth before the Veterans Law Judge.
Then the conversation will begin. You will have the opportunity to present your case to the judge, telling them why you believe you qualify for the benefits in your claim. Be prepared for the judge to ask questions, although it will not resemble a cross-examination. Answer forthrightly and be ready to present any new evidence you brought along with you. This is the time where your representative if you chose to have one, may help you.
Finally, the judge may offer advice for whatever else you may be able to do that can help you qualify for the VA benefits. For example, they may recommend a VA medical exam.
The hearing will last as long as you need it to in order to fully communicate your case to the judge. However, most cases take less than 30 minutes.
After hearing your case, the judge will take it back to the board for consideration. The judge at the hearing will not make a decision. They will take your appeal and add it to their list. When your appeal becomes one of the older appeals ready for review, they will begin to work on it.
Your hearing will be turned into a transcript by the Board of Veterans Appeals and will be added to your appeal file. If you’d like, you can receive a copy of the transcript. When it is time for the review of your appeal, the transcript of the hearing will be included with all other evidence in the file.
Back to waiting…
At this point, everything you can do for your appeal to the BVA has been completed. With a strong case behind you and the recent reforms made with the passing of the AMA, the chances of receiving a favorable review are high, and the wait should not be too long.
While you do have options before you get to this point, come chat with us to see if we can help you with any aspect of your VA claim process. This is the fastest way to get in touch!