Step 1: File a Claim
A claim can be filed at your local VA office, known as a Regional Office (RO), at a VA Medical facility, or online at the VA’s website by clicking HERE.
To file a claim for compensation or pension, a veteran must apply online or submit VA Form 21-526 to your servicing RO.
The surviving dependent of a veteran can file a claim for dependency and indemnity compensation, death pension, and accrued benefits by filing VA Form 21-534 with the RO.
Step 2: Claim Decided
Your RO will send you the decision on the claim. If you are not satisfied with the decision, you have ONE YEAR from the date the decision is mailed to file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD).
Step 3: Notice of Disagreement
A Notice of Disagreement must be submitted in writing to your RO and express dissatisfaction with the claims addressed in an unfavorable rating decision. The NOD should express the interest to have this decision appealed to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). There is no specific form to use. However, VA Form 21-4138 (Statement in Support of Claim) works well for this purpose. The NOD must be filed within one year of the date the rating decision was mailed.
After sending your NOD, you may request that a Decision Review Officer (DRO) from the RO review your file. They do a complete review of the file, as if it were not previously reviewed, and can hold personal hearings.
Once a Notice of Disagreement has been submitted to your RO, you can now hire an attorney to assist in your appeal.
Step 4: Statement of the Case
After reviewing the NOD, your RO will mail you a Statement of the Case (SOC), which will provide you with a detailed explanation of the laws, evidence, and regulations used in deciding your case. In addition to the SOC, the RO also will mail you a VA Form 9 (Substantive Appeal Form) to confirm that you still want the appeal to go forward.
If you DO NOT receive a Form 9 from the RO along with your SOC, contact the RO immediately, or obtain the form on line at www.va.gov/vaforms.
Step 5: Substantive Appeal (VA Form 9)
Fill out this form — providing specific reasons why you believe VA decided your case incorrectly. This form must be filed with your RO. You should receive a confirmation letter from the RO certifying your case to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) and allowing you 90 days, or until the Board makes a decision (whichever comes first), to submit evidence to the Board in support of your claim. After that time, your claim will be on the waiting list to be reviewed by the BVA.
The RO must receive your Form 9 within 60 days of the date they mailed you the SOC or within one year of the date they mailed you the original decision, whichever date is later.
In filling out the Form 9, you can ask for a personal hearing with either a local officer from your RO or a member of the BVA.
Step 6: Decision by Board of Veterans’ Appeals
The BVA will receive your appeal and review the case. Appeals are reviewed in the order in which the Form 9 is received by the BVA. As a result, it could take up to 883 days for a claim to be reviewed and a decision to be made (as reported by the BVA for 2011).
The BVA will mail you the decision: either your claim is granted, denied, or remanded.
If you claim is denied and you wish to continue the appeal, you have several options at this point.
- Try to reopen the claim at your RO,
- Ask the Board to reconsider or review the case based on error, or
- Appeal the decision to the U. S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC).
Step 7: Appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
If the BVA denies a claim, an appeal can be filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, which has exclusive jurisdiction to review adverse decisions from the BVA. This special federal court of appeals will review the record to determine if your claims have been properly denied. A court of appeals is not a trial court. There are no witnesses or new evidence allowed for consideration. VA will be represented by trained attorneys who will oppose your appeal and seek to have the Court confirm the decision of the BVA, effectively ending your appeal. The Court issues primarily single-judge decisions that will either affirm the Board’s decision, reverse that decision, or vacate (legally void) the decision and remand (or send back) to the Board for additional development and/or adjudication. Reversals are rare, so a remand is the best outcome you could expect.
Additional information may be obtained from www.uscourts.cavc.gov.
Decisions against your claim may be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Step 8: Appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has exclusive but limited jurisdiction over decisions by the Veterans Court. This court will not review findings of fact, but is limited to a review of how the Veterans Court interpreted the applicable statutes and regulations. Most cases appealed to this court are dismissed, because they do not meet this requirement and, therefore, the court will lack jurisdiction to hear the case.