President Announces Nominee for Chair of Board of Veterans’ Appeals
On April 15, 2022, President Biden announced his intent to nominate four individuals for key leadership positions in his administration. Among these individuals is Jaime Areizaga-Soto, nominee for Chair of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Colonel Jaime Areizaga-Soto currently serves on active duty as the Principal Deputy General Counsel of the National Guard Bureau (NGB), which is a joint activity of the Department of Defense (DoD). He is an attorney, a public servant, and the first Hispanic brigadier general in the Army JAG (Judge Advocate General) Corps. He also served as the Deputy Secretary for Veterans and Defense Affairs of Virginia from November 2014 to January 2022.
In his current role as Principal Deputy General Counsel of the NGB, Col. Areizaga-Soto leads an office of more than 100 attorneys in coordinating the Air Force, the Army, and the 54 National Guards. Additionally, he advises senior leadership of NGB through his role.
Mr. Areizaga-Soto, who possesses a law degree from Stanford Law School, has practiced international law for more than 12 years, served as a White House Fellow in the Treasury Department, and served as the Senior Attorney Advisor at USAID’s Office of General Counsel.
If the Senate confirms Mr. Areizaga-Soto as chairman of the Board, he will assume the position for a term of six years. The chairman leads the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and is assisted by a Vice Chair, five deputy vice chairmen, an executive director, and the Chief Counsel.
The current chair of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, Cheryl L. Mason, will continue to hold the position until the Senate confirms a nomination. Cheryl L. Mason is the first woman and military spouse to serve as chair. In a recent press release, VA recognized the contributions of Ms. Mason as a dedicated advocate for veterans, their families, and caregivers during her time as Chair of the BVA. According to VA, upon stepping down, Ms. Mason will continue to work with VA on issues related to military spouse employment.
What Does the Board of Veterans’ Appeals Do?
The Board of Veterans’ Appeals, or BVA, is the appellate body of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). As such, the BVA has the authority to overrule a decision made by a VA regional office. Veterans who disagree with a VA decision can appeal to the Board for a de novo review of their case, meaning that the Board must give their claim and the evidence they submit a fresh look. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals has jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to benefits administered by VA and individuals receiving or applying for them.
The Board’s Chairman is responsible for leading the BVA in accordance with its mission by providing direction to the organization, collaborating with other VA leaders, and conducting outreach. At present, the current chair manages a team of approximately 1,200 personnel including Veterans Law Judges, attorneys, and operations and administrative professionals as they conduct hearings and decide appeals on benefits and services for veterans and their families.
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