Board of Veterans' Appeals
This article needs to be updated.August 2019)(
Flag of the Chairman of the Board of Veterans' Appeals and Assistant Secretary of Veterans' Affairs
|Formed||July 21, 1930|
(Cabinet rank 15 March 1989)
|Jurisdiction||United States federal government|
|Headquarters||Veteran Affairs Building|
810 Vermont Avenue NW., Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Annual budget||$78.4 billion (2013)|
The Board of Veterans' Appeals (often referred to as the Board) is an administrative tribunal within the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), located in Washington, D.C. It determines whether U.S. military veterans are entitled to claimed veterans' benefits and services. 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. §§ 551(a); 7104(a). Final decision on such appeals are made by the Board based on the entire record in the proceedings and upon consideration of all evidence and applicable provisions of law and regulation. The Board's review is de novo.
The Board is led by the Chairman of the Board of Veterans' Appeals. The Chairman is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Chairman position was vacant from February 2011 - December 2017. On September 5, 2017, President Donald J. Trump nominated Cheryl L. Mason of Virginia to be Chairman of the Board of Veterans' Appeals for a term of six years. Chairman Mason was sworn in by Dr. David J. Shulkin, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, on December 3, 2017.
In Fiscal Year 2018, the Board issued over 81,000 decisions for Veterans and their families, which is the highest number of decisions issued by the Board since the 1988 enactment of the Veterans' Judicial Review Act (VJRA), which established the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). The Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 total of 85,288 decisions is a 62% increase over the FY 17 total of 52,537. Additionally, the Board held 16,422 hearings. In FY 2019, the Board issued 95,089 appeals decisions to Veterans and held 22,723 hearings, breaking the record of the FY 2018 results.
The appeals process in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA of the Department) is a complex, non-linear process, which is set in law and is unique from other standard appeals processes across the Federal and judicial systems. A feature of the legacy VA appeals process is a continuous open record that allows a Veteran, Survivor, or other appellant to submit new evidence and/or make new argument at any point from the beginning to the end of the appeals process. Additionally, the duty to assist throughout the appeals process requires VA to develop further evidence on the Veteran's behalf and pursue new argument and theories of entitlement. Each time arguments are presented and evidence is added/ obtained, VA generally must issue another decision considering that evidence, which protracts the timeline for appellate resolution.
Due to increasing difficulty to address the growing number of appeals in the current system, there have been various attempts to streamline the appeals process. As of 2017[update], the most recent proposal was the Department of Veterans Affairs Appeals Modernization Act, a reintroduction of S. 3328 from the 114th U.S. Congress. The bill was reintroduced on March 24, 2017 by a group of sixteen U.S. Senators, which include original cosponsors of the legislation. The Appeals Modernization Act passed through Congress and was signed into law by President Trump on August 23, 2017. The Appeals Modernization Act was implemented on February 19, 2019. Currently, the Department is adjudicating claims and appeals under the previous legacy system and the new Appeals Modernization system.
The Board of Veterans Appeals was established in July 1933. It was given authority to hear appeals on benefit and services decisions. Members of the Board are appointed by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs with the approval of the President of the United States.
Background of Veteran's Benefits
The United States has the most comprehensive system of assistance for Veterans of any nation in the world, with roots that can be traced back to 1636, when the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony were at war with the Pequot Indians. The Pilgrims passed a law that stated that disabled soldiers would be supported by the colony. Later, the Continental Congress of 1776 encouraged enlistments during the Revolutionary War, providing pensions to disabled soldiers. In the early days of the Republic, individual states and communities provided direct medical and hospital care to Veterans. In 1811, the federal government authorized the first domiciliary and medical facility for Veterans. Also in the 19th century, the nation's Veterans assistance program was expanded to include benefits and pensions not only for Veterans, but for their widows and dependents. This commitment is reflected in U.S. President Abraham Lincoln's words "to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for this widow, and his orphan," which is also the current motto of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
- 1917– Current benefits system created for Veterans of World War I.
- 1933– Board of Veterans' Appeals created to provide appellate review.
- 1957– VA Adjudication Regulations enacted as statute.
- 1962– Statement of the Case and Substantive Appeals procedures added.
- 1988– Veterans' Judicial Review Act of 1988 adds Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Federal Circuit Court, and Supreme Court Review.
- 2000– Veterans Claims Assistance Act expands number of issues requiring remand.
- 2001– Decision Review Officer (DRO) added between Notice of Disagreement (NOD) and Substantive Appeal.
- 2019- Appeals Modernization Act implemented changing both the claims and appeals processes to give Veterans choice, control, and clarity.
The Board has as many members as the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs deems "necessary in order to conduct hearings and dispose of appeals properly before the Board in a timely manner". Board members are appointed by the Secretary, with the approval of the President. Members of the Board are appointed by the Secretary of VA and approved by the President and are commissioned as Veterans Law Judges (VLJs).
As of February 2020 the Chairman leads a Board of 102 VLJs. Members of the Board are required to be "experienced attorneys in the field of veterans law". Staff attorneys, also trained in veterans law, review the facts of each appeal and assist the Board members.
Chairman of the Board
The Chairman of the Board of Veterans' Appeals is an agency head and a department principal within the United States Department of Veterans Affairs that directs the Board of Veterans' Appeals. The Chairman is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate for a 6-year term
Cheryl L. Mason was nominated by President Donald Trump to become the Chairman of the Board on September 5, 2017 and was confirmed by the United States Senate on November 8, 2017. Chairman Mason was sworn in by Secretary Shulkin on December 3, 2017.
David Spickler, formerly the Principal Deputy Vice Chairman, served as the Executive-in-Charge from January 20, 2017 to December 10, 2017 until Chairman Mason's installation. Mr. Spickler was selected by Secretary David Shulkin to serve as Vice Chairman serving there until his retirement. Secretary Robert Wilkie selected Kenneth Arnold, Colonel USAF (ret), then Deputy Vice Chairman, to serve as the Vice Chairman in February 2019.
List of Chairmen of the Board of Veterans' Appeals
The following individuals served as Chairman:
- John G. Pollard (1934–1937)
- Robert L. Jarnagin (1937–1957)
- James W. Stencil (1957–1971)
- Lawrence R. Pierce, Jr. (1971–1974)
- Sydney J. Shuman (1974–1981)
- Kenneth E. Eaton (1982–1991)
When Veterans' Affairs became a Cabinet Department, the Chairman position became a Presidential Appointment with Senate Confirmation to a 6-year term:
- Charles Cragin (March 1991 – March 1997)
- Eligah Dane Clark (November 1998 – November 2004)
- James P. Terry (July 2005 – February 2011)
- Cheryl L. Mason (December 2017 – Present)
An individual may file a claim for VA Veterans benefits and programs, such as: Disability Compensation; Education Assistance (GI Bill/ Post 9-11 GI Bill); Insurance; Dependency and Indemnity Compensation; Medical; Pension; and Vocational Rehabilitation and Education (VR&E). The most common claim is for Disability Compensation, which comprised 93.88 percent of all appeals in Fiscal Year 2015. For example, a Veteran who receives an injury, or develops a medical condition while serving in the United States Armed Forces, is generally entitled to receive compensation based on the degree to which the injury affects things like the person's mobility, future earning capacity, or quality of life. A claimant seeking such benefits first files a claim with a Regional Office of the VA located near the claimant. When a claimant's application for benefits has been denied by the Agency of Original Jurisdiction, such as the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), Veterans Health Administration (VHA) or National Cemetery Administration (NCA), an appeal can be made to the Board of Veterans' Appeals. The Board is part of the Department of Veterans Affairs, located in Washington, DC, and makes the final determination on an appeal within the VA's jurisdiction. Board members make the final decision on appeals within the VA. The Board also employs staff attorneys that assist the Board members while preparing a decision for a claim, much like a clerk for a judge.
Decisions of the Board may be appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, which is not part of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and from there to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Process of filing an appeal with the Board (applicable only to VA legacy claims)
The process of appealing an unfavorable decision consists of several steps:
- Step 1: If a Veteran disagrees with all of part of a VA decision, he or she must file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). An NOD is filed on a VA Form 21-0958, which is available at http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-0958-ARE.pdf. A NOD must be filed one year from the date of the letter notifying the Veteran of the claims decision and must be filed on the standard form.
- Step 2: the local VA office will review the Veteran's file again, prepare a written explanation of why the claim was denied, known as the Statement of the Case (SOC), and provide a copy to the claimant by mail. If any evidence or request that VA obtain any evidence is submitted after the mailing of the Statement of the Case, the claimant may receive a Supplemental Statement of the Case (SSOC) after the local VA office reviews that evidence.
- Step 3: After reviewing the Statement of the Case (SOC), the Veteran (appellant), usually via his or her attorney, claims agent, or Veterans Service Officer, files a formal notice of appeal on a VA Form 9, Appeal to Board of Veterans' Appeals', which is available online at http://www.va.gov/vaforms/va/pdf/VA9.pdf. At this time, the appellant may elect an optional hearing before a Veterans Law Judge.
- Optional Step 4: If an optional in-person or video teleconference hearing with a Veterans Law Judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals is selected on the VA Form 9, the hearing will be scheduled at the appellant's local VA office (Regional Office). Central Office hearing requests in Washington, DC are scheduled by the Board. An appellant's travel costs for a hearing are not paid by VA.
- Step 5: After a Substantive Appeal (VA Form 9) is filed and hearing held (if applicable), the local VA office will certify and transfer the appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, where a decision will be prepared and mailed to the appellant.
A more detailed overview of the appeals process can be found in VA Pamphlet 01-15-02B, which is available online at https://www.bva.va.gov/How_Do_I_APPEAL.asp.
Process of filing a modern appeal
File a Notice of Disagreement on VA Form 10182 directly with the Board at the address listed on the form.
- http://www.bva.va.gov/docs/Chairmans_Annual_Rpts/BVA2015AR.pdf This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
- "VA achieves historic goal by delivering more than 81,000 appeals decisions to Veterans in fiscal year 2018". VA News Release. September 14, 2018.
- United States Department of Veterans Affairs, VA History in Brief, p. 12.
- The Veterans Appeals Process, page 12. http://www.bva.va.gov/docs/Veterans-Appeals-Process-Briefing.pdf
- 38 U.S.C. § 7101(a).
- Daniel T. Shedd, "Overview of the Appeal Process for Veterans' Claims", Congressional Research Service Report 7-5700 (April 29, 2013), page 3, citing 38 U.S.C. §7101A.
- Daniel T. Shedd, "Overview of the Appeal Process for Veterans' Claims", Congressional Research Service Report 7-5700 (April 29, 2013), page 3.
- Board of Veterans Appeals.
- 38 U.S.C. §§ 7103, 7104.
- 38 U.S.C. § 7101(b)(1).
- "Forty-Six Nominations Sent to the Senate Today". White House. September 5, 2017. Archived from the original on 2017-09-13. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
- "PN932 — Cheryl L. Mason — Department of Veterans Affairs". U.S. Congress. November 8, 2017. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
- BOARD OF VETERANS APPEALS ANNUAL REPORT FY2015, Page 26. http://www.bva.va.gov/docs/Chairmans_Annual_Rpts/BVA2015AR.pdf
- Daniel T. Shedd, "Overview of the Appeal Process for Veterans' Claims", Congressional Research Service Report 7-5700 (April 29, 2013), page 3, citing 38 U.S.C. §7104(a).
- Daniel T. Shedd, "Overview of the Appeal Process for Veterans' Claims", Congressional Research Service Report 7-5700 (April 29, 2013), page 3, citing BOARD OF VETERANS' APPEALS, VAPAMPHLET 01-00-1, UNDERSTANDING THE APPEALS PROCESS (2000), page 6.
- Daniel T. Shedd, "Overview of the Appeal Process for Veterans' Claims", Congressional Research Service Report 7-5700 (April 29, 2013), page 3, citing 38 U.S.C. §§7252, 7266.
- Daniel T. Shedd, "Overview of the Appeal Process for Veterans' Claims", Congressional Research Service Report 7-5700 (April 29, 2013), page 4, citing 38 U.S.C. §7292.