What Is the Veterans Benefits Administration?
The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is a branch of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that manages the disbursement of a variety of benefits to veterans and their dependents. The jurisdiction of the VBA spans from disability compensation and pension, to loan guaranties, education services, and vocational rehabilitation.
The VBA is led by the Undersecretary of Benefits who works under the Secretary of the VA. The Undersecretary oversees the Records Management Center, Appeals Management Center, and Office of Field Operations which consists of the 56 VA regional benefits offices.
What Are the Main Offices in the VBA?
There are four main branches of VBA that function directly under the oversight of the Under Secretary of Benefits.
- Office of Strategic Planning. This office handles the strategic and operational planning of the VBA, including implementing the VA and VBA strategic plans and priorities.
- Office of the Deputy Under Secretary for Disability Assistance. The Office of Disability Assistance manages the administration of benefits and services to veterans, their family members, and survivors. This office oversees the offices of Compensation Service, Pension and Fiduciary Service, Insurance Service, and Benefits Assistance Service. The Office of Compensation Service administers monthly payments to veterans for their service-connected conditions. This office works closely with the VA’s 56 Regional Offices. More on that below.
- Office of the Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity. The Office of Economic Opportunity oversees programs such as vocational rehabilitation, transition assistance, employment, education services, and loan guaranties.
- Office of the Deputy Under Secretary for Field Operations. The Office of Field Operations manages the operations at the VA Regional Offices, Records Management Center, and Appeals Management Center. These offices handle veterans’ claims for compensation, pension, vocational rehabilitation, housing benefits and more.
What are Regional Offices?
Regional Offices are VA entities that handle claims for VA benefits until veterans appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Each state has at least one regional office and some states have multiple offices due to the increased workload of that state. For instance, Alaska has one regional office located in Anchorage. However, California has three regional offices located in Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Diego due to the size of the veteran population in California.
Some regional offices handle specific types of claims. For instance, claims related to exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune are processed at the Louisville, Kentucky regional office.
Each VA regional office consists of a Veterans Service Center, Finance Division, Support Services Division, Human Resources, Loan Guaranty Division, and Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Division.
What is the Board of Veterans’ Appeals?
The Board of Veterans’ Appeals is an appellate organization within the VA that handles claims and appeals from the VA regional offices. The Board is led by the Chairman, Vice Chairman, Principal Deputy Vice Chairman, and also consists of Veterans Law Judges and support staff. The Board’s duty is to conduct hearings and decide appeals for VA benefits. The Board has jurisdiction over all questions in matters of decisions made by the Secretary that impact benefits to veterans, their dependents, and their survivors. Unlike regional offices, there is only one Board of Veterans’ Appeals located in Washington D.C.
What is the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims?
When the Board denies claims for benefits, veterans can appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). The CAVC is not a part of the Veterans Benefits Administration, instead it is considered a part of the U.S. judicial system and acts as an independent judicial review for final decision from the Board. CAVC consists of several judges and its jurisdiction is limited to decisions made by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
The VA is a large governmental organization that can be confusing to figure out. For veterans with claims for disability benefits, the VBA is the branch that they will often have the most contact with, so it is important to understand where your claim is under the larger VA umbrella. For more information on the VA claims and appeals process, check out our overview of the VA disability claims and appeals process.
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