Board of Veterans Appeals
The Board of Veterans' Appeals (Board) is a part of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), located in Washington, D.C. The Board’s mission is to conduct hearings and decide appeals properly before the Board in a timely manner. 38 United States Code (U.S.C.) § 7101(a). The Board’s jurisdiction extends to all questions in matters involving a decision by the Secretary under a law that affects a provision of benefits by the Secretary to Veterans, their dependents, or their Survivors. 38 U.S.C. §§ 511(a); 7104(a). Final decisions on such appeals are made by the Board based on the entire record in the proceeding and upon consideration of all evidence and applicable provisions of law and regulation. 38 U.S.C. § 7104(a).
The Board consists of a Chairman, a Vice Chairman, and such number of members as may be found necessary to conduct hearings and dispose of appeals properly before the Board in a timely manner. 38 U.S.C. § 7101(a). “Members of the Board,” also known as “Veterans Law Judges” (VLJ), are supported by a large staff of attorneys and administrative personnel. 38 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) § 19.2(b). After the end of each fiscal year, the Chairman is required to prepare a report on the activities of the Board during that fiscal year and the projected activities of the Board for the current and subsequent fiscal years. 38 U.S.C. § 7101(d)(1). To read the current and past Annual Reports click here.
The appeals process in VA is a complex, multi-step adjudication process, which utilizes an open record – that is, it allows a Veteran to submit medical and lay evidence at any point from the beginning to the end of the process, including while the claim is pending on appeal, which may in turn require VA to develop further evidence on the Veteran’s behalf. Appeals are initiated at the Agency of Original Jurisdiction (AOJ), which includes the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) Regional Offices (RO), Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical facilities, the National Cemetery Administration (NCA), and the Office of General Counsel (OGC). While the vast majority (98 percent) of appeals considered by the Board involves claims for disability compensation, the Board also reviews appeals involving other types of Veterans benefits, to include insurance benefits, educational benefits, home loan guaranties, vocational rehabilitation, dependency and indemnity compensation, health care delivery, burial benefits, pension benefits, and fiduciary matters. If an appeal is not resolved at the AOJ level to the Veteran’s (or Appellant’s) satisfaction, he or she may formally continue that appeal to the Board for a de novo review (i.e., new look) and the issuance of a final decision.
VLJs review benefit claims determinations made by local VA offices and issue decision on appeals. These VLJs, attorneys experienced in Veterans law and in reviewing benefit claims, are the only ones who can issue Board decisions. Staff attorneys, also trained in Veterans law, review the facts of each appeal and assist the Board members. 38 U.S.C. §§ 7103, 7104.
The Board has clarified the procedures for assigning cases for decision to ensure adherence to the statutory requirement of deciding appeals “in regular order according to its place on the docket.” Notably, since FY 2010, when an appealed case is received at the Board, the appeal is activated (or reactivated if a returned remand) and formally docketed using a priority order commensurate with the date that the Substantive Appeal was received in at a VBA Regional Office (RO). The Board’s docket is comprised of all activated appeals in its inventory; the docket changes constantly because new appeals are docketed and other appeals are dispatched on a daily basis. Because the Board’s active inventory of docketed appeals is fluid, since October 2014, the Board has managed docket order workflow by taking a weekly “point-in-time” snapshot of the oldest docketed appeals, and using that snapshot as a blueprint for distributing the appeals in docket order for adjudication that coming week. Once cases are distributed from Central Case Storage by oldest docket, docket date is not the controlling factor – time then controls. This week the Board is distributing cases from Central Case Storage with docket dates up to December 2015.
Anyone who is not satisfied with the results of a claim for Veterans benefits (determined by a VA RO, VHA medical center, or other local VA office) should read the How do I Appeal? pamphlet. It is intended to explain the steps involved in filing an appeal and to serve as a reference for the terms and abbreviations used in the appeal process.
VA Appeals Status Tool