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Veterans Law

CCK Shows Actual Wait Times for BVA Decisions Are Far Longer Than Reported

Lisa Ioannilli

April 9, 2024

Updated: April 10, 2024

CCK Shows Actual Wait Times for BVA Decisions Are Far Longer Than Reported

Veterans are waiting far longer for AMA decisions from the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) than the BVA claims.

Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick has obtained data indicating that the average appeal before BVA has been waiting for an average of 43 months — 1308 days — despite BVA claiming that decision wait times are between 314 and 927 days.

In this article, we discuss the way we obtained this data, what it indicates about veterans’ appeal experience, and how VA’s reporting process appears to be misleading.

Who We Are: Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick is the largest veterans law firm in the US, with 300 years of combined experience arguing many of the precedent-setting cases in veterans law. We believe in getting veterans their benefits efficiently and aggressively. No firm has filed as many motions to expedite cases or lawsuits to have VA cases moved faster.

Exposing Hidden Delays in VA Appeals Decisions: CCK Investigation

BVA Says Appeal Decision Wait Times Have Decreased Significantly

BVA is one of three lanes of appeal for veterans who disagree with VA Regional Office (RO) decisions about their disability benefit claims. BVA has three dockets: direct review, evidence submission, and hearing. In 2023, BVA claims that the Average Days to Complete (ADC) appeals in the three dockets were as follows:

  • Direct Review: 314 days
  • Evidence Submission: 695 days
  • Hearing: 927 days

VA also reports that the number of cases processed has increased significantly in recent years. However, it is not clear how much this is due to the prioritization of “advanced” cases. For context, BVA must generally consider appeals in the order in which they are docketed. However, cases can be prioritized or “advanced” due to extenuating circumstances like a veteran’s advanced age, illness, or financial hardship. By taking these cases out of the docket, turnaround may appear to be faster, but the average case decision time is not improved.

CCK Makes Freedom of Information Act Request for Actual BVA Docket Data

In December of 2023, Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick made a FOIA request for the oldest cases waiting for BVA decisions, both under the legacy and Appeals Modernization Act (AMA) appeal process. BVA provided docket numbers for these cases, which we matched to similar docket numbers among our clients to find approximate dates.

NOTE: The oldest numbers in the Board’s docket numbers are due to administrative actions that need to be done on the cases.  So, our numbers are more indicative of what the usual wait time is.

Comparing the Board’s Claimed Decision Times to the Actual BVA Data

From the docket numbers, we learned that the latest date being distributed for non-advanced cases in all three of the AMA appeal dockets is somewhere between 11/10/2020 and 11/15/2020. Therefore, BVA is averaging 43 months — 1308 days — to deliver a typical AMA decision.

What about Legacy cases?

It is more difficult to draw conclusions about Legacy appeals from docket numbers because of the back-and-forth nature of the Legacy appeal process. AMA appeals tend to be more linear than Legacy and thus easier to analyze.

But VA itself concedes that Legacy claims take significantly longer than AMA appeals. “AMA appeals are fully resolved (with no remands) approximately 4 years faster than it takes to fully resolve Legacy appeals (with no remands).”

Conclusion: BVA Is Not Telling the Truth About Appeal Decision Wait Times

1) Transparency: While we do not have full access to VA’s data, it is at least clear that VA is not being transparent with its reporting.

2) Wait times: The average non-advanced AMA case is 3.6 years old. How long have the oldest cases been languishing there? Legacy appeals seem likely to be in even worse shape; how long have they been waiting?

3) Broken promises: Before AMA was passed, VA promised Direct Review Docket decisions within 365 days, and now it claims to have successfully reached a 314-day turnaround. But as the FOIA data shows, that promise has not, in fact, been kept.

What To Do if Your Appeal Has Been Delayed

Has your appeal been delayed for a significant amount of time? We may be able to help. CCK has extensive experience forcing VA to comply with the law and speed up claims and appeals. Please contact us for a free case evaluation.

About the Author

Bio photo of Lisa Ioannilli

Lisa joined CCK in March 2012. Lisa is a Senior Attorney focusing on representing disabled veterans in claims pending before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

See more about Lisa