VA Statement of the Case: How to understand what VA is saying
What is a Statement of the Case?
A Statement of the Case (SOC) is a document that explains VA’s decision regarding your claim(s) for disability benefits. After VA receives a Notice of Disagreement from a veteran, it will prepare the SOC for all issues that were not granted. An SOC should include the following information:
Notice of Action Letter
In the cover letter, known as a Notice of Action letter (NOA), VA will provide you with an explanation of the appeals process. It will include information about how to appeal and the necessary timeframe in which an appeal must be filed. Specifically, you have 60 days from the date of the NOA letter to file a VA Form 9 Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. VA indicates that your appeal should address the benefit you want, the facts in the SOC with which you disagree, and the errors that you believe were made in applying the law.
List of Issues and Evidence
The first part of an SOC will display a numerical list of the issues on appeal, followed by a list of all of the evidence VA used to make its decision. Examples of such evidence include, but are not limited to, medical records, service records, lay statements, and if applicable, employment history.
This brief portion of the SOC will provide a chronological account of the procedural history leading up to this decision. Specifically, it will highlight the various adjudicative actions that took place with their corresponding dates of occurrence, beginning with the date the veteran’s initial claim was received. For example, this section may appear as follows:
09-16-2017 Claim received.
02-14-2018 Claim considered based on all the evidence of record.
02-28-2018 Claimant notified of decision.
3-10-2018 Notice of Disagreement with Decision Review Officer Process election received.
4-6-2018 Decision Review Officer Process explanation letter sent to the appellant.
5-10-2018 De Novo Review performed based on all the evidence of record.
Regulations and Laws Related to the Decision
This section of the SOC summarizes the various statues and regulations that impacted the decision. Typically, this is the longest part of the SOC and accounts for why these decisions can often be 30-40 pages long. It includes all of the legislation related to the issues on appeal, and may be helpful to reference when evaluating the adequacy of the actual decision.
In this segment of the SOC, VA will clearly address each issue of the claim separately, and provide a decision for each. For example, if the SOC is denying service connection for a claimed condition, it will display the following:
- Service connection for tinnitus is denied.
- Service connection for bilateral hearing loss is denied.
However, if the SOC is denying an increased rating claim, this section will state:
- Entitlement to an evaluation greater than 10 percent for tinnitus is denied.
- Entitlement to an evaluation in excess of 0 percent for bilateral hearing loss is denied.
Reasons and Bases
VA should then provide an explanation for its decision and how the evidence listed further supports it. Importantly, the reasons and bases portion is supposed to address any contentions made by the claimant in his or her NOD and specifically reference each piece of evidence that was used.
VA Form 9 Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals
At the end of the SOC, VA attaches the VA Form 9 needed in order to effectively appeal the decision. A veteran, or a veteran’s representative, must fill out this form completely and submit it to VA within 60 days. If a veteran fails to submit this form within the 60-day window, the appeal period may be closed and the decision will become final. This means that if a veteran tried to re-open the claim down the road, the original effective date for the issue would be lost.
- How to Appeal Your VA Claim
- What Happens When a VA Appeal is Remanded?
- Caregiver Program: Veterans risk loss of care due to inability to appeal VHA decisions
- How Long VA Appeals Process Can Take – Average Appeal Times for Disability Claims
- VA Appeal Deadlines
- What is a Decision Review Officer (DRO)?
- How Many Options Are There to Appeal a Disability Claims Decision in RAMP?