A VA Appeal can be an arduous process. In addition to the fact that the burden is typically on you alone to demonstrate that you have a service-connected injury or disability, you also have to understand the purpose and different steps in the appeal timeline.
Whether it’s a Notice of Disagreement (NOD), Decision Review Officer (DRO) Hearing, or Statement of the Case (SOC), or BVA Hearing, you could benefit from insight into what to expect, and what to do. And if we’re representing you in your appeal, what we’ll be doing on your behalf.
This is Part 4 of a 4 part series of articles that aims to help you get more familiar with your BVA appeal. Don’t miss the other three parts:
Part 1: Notice of Disagreement
Part 2: Decision Review Officer
Part 3: Statement of the Case
What is a Board of Veterans Appeals Hearing?
After having filed your NOD, going through an optional DRO review, receiving your SOC, then responding with a VA form 9, you are now at the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) hearing. A BVA hearing is a formal hearing with a Board of Veterans Appeals judge. You will be sworn in, and have an opportunity to present your appeal.
The judge may choose to ask questions to understand your claim and appeal better, but they are not obligated to do so. Because of this, it’s best to be prepared, and be organized. And if you have the ability to get your thoughts in a succinct but thorough document, do so. You can submit it after your hearing, and you can waive your right to have a regional office review of the document so that the judge can use it in their determination. <- this is very much a strategy decision you have to make. If you have an attorney or advocate, this is something you’d want to talk to them about too.
We’ll cover what to expect after a BVA Hearing below. But first, we should cover how you can expect to do a BVA hearing, as there are several options.
What Are My Options for a BVA Hearing?
If in your VA Form 9 you identified that you wished to have a hearing in person, at the VA regional office nearest you, you’ll check in on the date of your hearing and be escorted up to the room of your hearing. The room is usually a small conference room, and there will be recording equipment for the judge and their staff to review in making their decision at a later date. You will have the option of requesting a transcript of the hearing.
If you chose to do a video conference in your VA Form 9, the process is similar to testifying before a judge in person, and in many cases you’ll use the same conference room. The difference is that once sworn-in, you’ll be testifying before the BVA judge in front of a large television with a camera attached. The judge will see you and you’ll see the judge, though you’ll both be thousands of miles apart. Again, the hearing is recorded, and you can request to have a transcript prepared.
What Happens After a BVA Hearing?
The BVA judge will not make a determination at the end of your BVA hearing. They will take their notes and the transcript of the hearing and make a determination over the next couple weeks. You can typically expect to receive a written determination within a 2-6 weeks. The determination will have a thorough description of the initial claim, the appeal, and the determination of the judge with the applicable laws and statutes cited.
At this point, if your appeal has been granted partially or fully, congratulations! If not, you may need to consider taking it before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC).