CAVC Docket Explained
Overview of the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC)
The United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC or Court) is a federal appellate court that hears the appeals of claimants (i.e., veterans and their dependents) who were unsuccessful before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
Located in Washington, D.C., the Court was initially established by Congress in 1988 to ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) follows all applicable laws when making decisions on disability benefits claims. Once a case transfers to the CAVC, it is no longer under the jurisdiction of VA and becomes a federal case.
Importantly, the CAVC is not part of VA. At the agency level, VA aids veterans in the development of their claims per VA’s duty to assist. However, when a veteran appeals to the CAVC, VA will have an attorney defending the agency’s position and opposing the veteran’s position.
CAVC judges, who are appointed by the U.S. President and confirmed by the Senate, review final Board decisions that claimants have appealed. They make determinations using case files, written arguments (briefs) from both parties, and some oral arguments.
How to Appeal to the CAVC
When you disagree with a ruling issued by the Board, you have the right to appeal the unfavorable decision. Under the Appeals Modernization Act (AMA) system, claimants have three ways to file an appeal:
- Submitting a Supplemental Claim with new and relevant evidence;
- Filing a Motion for Reconsideration; or
- Appealing to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
By filing a CAVC appeal, you are essentially taking legal action against the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Claimants only have 120 days from the date of the Board decision to file a CAVC appeal before the decision becomes final.
To file a CAVC appeal, claimants must complete a Notice of Appeal with the Court, which includes personal identifying information and details about the Board decision.
What Is the CAVC Docket?
Once a veteran files the Notice of Appeal, the CAVC then places the veteran’s case on the docket, which is the Court’s record and schedule of proceedings. In other words, the CAVC docket begins the appellate process.
After a case is docketed, the CAVC will issue a Notice of Docketing to all parties (i.e., the claimant, VA, and their respective representatives). When this occurs, the claim officially becomes a court case. Veterans can search for their docket number using this CAVC docket search.
It is important to note that the Court’s case number is different from the VA’s claims file number.
What Happens After the CAVC Docket?
After the CAVC sends the Notice of Docketing, the CAVC appeals process generally proceeds as follows:
- VA will send the claimant (and their representative) a copy of their complete file, referred to as the Record Before the Agency (RBA). The Court will then issue a 60-day Notice to File Brief. Both these steps occur within 60 days of the CAVC docket.
- For veterans with representatives, the CAVC will schedule a briefing conference and send an order with the date and time of the initial conference. The goal of the briefing conference is to resolve issues noted in the appeal quickly.
- If the issues are not resolved at this conference, the case will proceed to briefing. Briefs are written arguments on behalf of the veteran provided to the Court.
- Once the Court has received all the records and briefs, the case will be assigned to a Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims judge who will render a decision.
Generally, the CAVC either affirms or vacates and remands a Board decision back down to the Board. In rare situations the Court will reverse a decision, meaning it sends the case back to the Board with instructions to change a finding or grant a benefit.
On average, the CAVC will come to a decision within 12 to 18 months, with some cases taking as long as two years.
If the Court issues an unfavorable decision, there are several options to continue the appeal. Veterans can file a Motion for Reconsideration, request a panel decision (i.e., the case will be decided by a panel of judges instead of a single judge), or they can appeal the case to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. For this last option, a legal error must have occurred during the Court’s decision making. Veterans can reference this example of a Federal Circuit decision.
Do I Need an Attorney to Help with My Appeal to the CAVC?
While veterans and their families do not need a representative for a CAVC appeal, it is highly recommended. When you proceed on your own, you go up against experienced VA attorneys who are well-versed in the specifics of Veterans Law. It is to the advantage of all veterans to have the help of a qualified, accredited attorney.
It is also important to note that not all veterans’ attorneys can represent you before the Court. The accredited attorneys at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick have successfully represented hundreds of veterans before the CAVC. If you need assistance with your appeal, we may be able to help you too. Reach out to CCK today to schedule your complimentary case review with a member of our team.
For more in-depth information about the CAVC process, such as how much it costs, veterans can also access CCK’s free CAVC eBook here.
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