What is a Board Remand?
A Board remand occurs when the Board of Veterans’ Appeals determines that additional information is needed before making a final decision on a veteran’s claim for benefits.
What is the Board of Veterans’ Appeals?
The Board of Veterans’ Appeals, also known as the Board or BVA, is an appellate body of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that conducts hearings and reevaluates veterans’ claims for benefits. The Board can overrule decisions made by a VA Regional Office.
When a veteran submits a Notice of Disagreement in response to a decision issued by VA, their claim will go to the Board to be reviewed by a Veterans Law Judge. The Board will issue a decision after thoroughly examining the veteran’s file.
The Board can issue three types of decisions: a grant, a denial, or a remand—or a combination of the three.
What Is a Remand?
A “remand” is a legal term that describes the process in which a superior court remands – or sends back – an appeal to a lower court for another look. In a typical system, a higher court usually remands a case when a lower court interprets a law incorrectly. In VA’s system, appeals are remanded for many reasons.
If the Board chooses to remand a claim, it will return to the VA Regional Office for further evidence collection and to complete any remand instructions.
A remand is an order that must be followed. If the Regional Office fails to follow the instructions given by the Board in the remand, then the veteran has the right to appeal again.
VA’s Duty to Assist
Upon remand, VA has the Duty to Assist you with your claim. This duty exists when you first submit a completed claim, and it requires VA to help you gather evidence and otherwise assist in the development of your claim.
When your case is remanded, VA’s Duty to Assist may require VA to take various actions to help you. They may schedule a new medical exam, gather new records, or consider new evidence.
Is a Board (or VA) Remand a Good Thing?
Having a case remanded is not necessarily a bad thing. The Board may order the Regional Office to analyze the case in a way that is more favorable to the veteran or give the veteran a chance to further develop the evidence of record.
Why Did the Board of Veterans’ Appeals Remand My Claim?
In most cases, a remand occurs because the Board feels that additional information or evidence is needed to come to a final determination. However, there are other situations in which the Board can decide to remand a claim:
- The Board does not believe that the Regional Office evaluated the veteran’s claim appropriately;
- The veteran’s disability worsened while on appeal;
- Additional evidence was submitted that the Regional Office did not review;
- VA did not analyze a case under the proper legal framework; or
- The Regional Office did not gather enough evidence or did not gather the right evidence. VA has attempted to reduce the number of times this happens by gathering evidence correctly the first time; however, these mistakes still occur.
This is not a complete list of reasons why a claim may have been remanded. The Board should explain in its decision why they are conducting a remand and what actions the VA Regional Office must take.
What Happens During a Remand?
The context and content of a remand will be different for every veteran. However, the Board will always lay out specific remand instructions that must be followed before a final decision can be issued.
Following a remand, the VA Regional Office will work through each of the Board’s instructions and may request additional information from the veteran. These are some common pieces of evidence or information that the Board may ask for in a remand:
Compensation and Pension (C&P) Exam
The Board can remand claims in order to obtain an updated C&P exam. They often request an exam if they find that an exam already of record is inadequate or erroneous, or if the most recent exam is too old to provide an accurate picture of the veteran’s disability.
VA may also request a new exam if clarification is needed from a past examiner. If an examiner contradicts themselves in an exam or if they do not provide reasoning for their conclusions, the Board can ask for a clarifying opinion from that examiner.
The Board can ask for additional medical records to be obtained from private or VA medical facilities to better understand the veteran’s condition. This is a very common request in a remand.
If it appears that the veteran’s file is missing service records, or if the Board believes that additional service records will help substantiate a veteran’s claim, it can request that they be obtained. The Board can request information such as service medical records, Navy deck logs, and personnel records for the veteran’s claim.
In claims for service connection for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other psychiatric disorders, the Board may ask to verify the veteran’s in-service stressor through the Joint Services Records Research Center (JSRRC).
Evidence from the Veteran
While looking through the veteran’s file, the Board may find that a key piece of evidence is missing. In Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) cases, veterans need to provide VA Form 21-8940. If the veteran did not submit this form during the appeal, the Board can remand the claim and request that the form be completed.
The Board may also request lay statements from the veteran or any caregivers, or ask the veteran for clarification about something of record.
What Happens After VA Completes the Remand Instructions?
After the VA Regional Office completes the Board’s remand instructions, it will issue a decision on the veteran’s claim.
If VA grants the claim, that’s great! If VA continues to deny the veteran’s claim, it will return the case to the Board. The Board will grant, deny, or remand the case again. There is no limit on the number of times a Board judge may remand a veteran’s case.
If the case is remanded a second time, the process starts anew. If the Board denies the veteran’s claim, they may choose to appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) or file a Supplemental Claim with additional evidence.
How Long Does a Board Remand Take?
Board remands will delay a final decision on a veteran’s claim for benefits. Once a claim arrives at the VA Regional Office, it should remain there for a minimum of 30 days, which is the time allotted for new evidence to be submitted. In reality, it can take anywhere from 3 to 12 months before a new decision on a VA remand is issued.
If a veteran’s appeal is returned to the Board again it usually takes several months to be reviewed, depending on the current backlog at the Board. Some veterans wait years for their cases to be reviewed by the Board.
CCK is Here to Assist You!
If the Board of Veterans’ Appeals remanded your claim and you need help getting a favorable outcome, reach out to Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick today for a complimentary case review. The team of experienced veterans’ advocates at CCK may be able to help you secure the disability compensation you deserve.
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