Search Penny Hill Press

Monday, July 30, 2012

Overview of the Appeal Process for Veterans’ Claims

Daniel T. Shedd
Legislative Attorney

Congress, through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), provides a variety of benefits and services to veterans and to certain members of their families. These benefits include disability compensation and pensions, education benefits, survivor benefits, medical treatment, life insurance, vocational rehabilitation, and burial and memorial benefits. In order to receive these benefits, a veteran (or an eligible family member) must apply for them by submitting the necessary information to a local VA office. The local VA office will make an initial determination on the application for benefits. Any veteran who is not satisfied with the local VA’s determination is permitted to appeal the decision. This report provides a step-by-step breakdown of the appeal process for veterans’ claims.

After an appeal is filed, the local VA office will again review the claim. If the local VA office still denies the claim, the local VA office will prepare the claim file for the appeal and provide the claimant with a blank VA Form 9—a form that must be completed to make an appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). Claimants must follow specific procedures to request the appeal and must meet certain deadlines for submitting the proper information

The claimant may choose to have a hearing with the BVA during the appeal process. There are three different types of hearings that the claimant may choose: (1) an in-person hearing with a BVA member, held in Washington, DC; (2) an in-person hearing with a BVA member, held at a local VA office; or (3) a teleconference hearing. The hearings with the BVA are informal and nonadversarial in nature. The claimant will be given the opportunity to explain the reasons for the appeal and to submit additional evidence during the hearing. The claimant may be represented during the appeal process.

After the BVA reaches a decision on the appeal, there are further options the claimant may pursue if he or she is still not satisfied with the BVA decision. A claimant may file a notice of appeal with the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). The CAVC, an Article I court, has exclusive jurisdiction to review decisions of the BVA. A claimant must submit a notice of appeal within 120 days of receiving the decision from the BVA. However, a recent Supreme Court decision, Henderson v. Shinseki, clarified that the 120-day deadline is not a “jurisdictional” deadline. Therefore, an appeal to the CAVC will not necessarily be dismissed for missing the deadline. However, the claimant must have a good reason for filing late, such as an inability to meet the deadline due to mental incapacity. This report will examine this case and discuss various acceptable reasons for missing the 120-day deadline.

In the 112th Congress, various pieces of legislation have been proposed that would alter the appeal process. These proposals range from extending the 120-day filing deadline with the CAVC to permitting the BVA to review newly submitted evidence without having to remand the case to a local VA office for an initial review. The proposed legislation in the 112th Congress is discussed in Appendix A to this report.

Date of Report: July 16, 2012
Number of Pages: 21
Order Number: R42609
Price: $29.95

  Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.

To Order:

R42609.pdf  to use the SECURE SHOPPING CART


Phone 301-253-0881

For email and phone orders, provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.

Follow us on TWITTER at or #CRSreports