Welcome to FAQ Fridays! This week, CCK answers common questions about the VA appeals process, from the very first step (filing a claim) to the last (appealing to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, or CAVC).
Q: How do I go about filing a claim for disability benefits?
A: You can visit your nearest VA Regional Office and fill out the necessary forms; you can go online to the VA website and download the forms to fill out and send in; or, you can contact a veterans service organization such as the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) to help you submit the documentation and walk you through the process.
To get the lay of the land before you submit a claim, read our blog post about the VA claims and appeals process.
Q: How long is my case going to take to get a final decision from the VA?
A: Unfortunately, there is no average amount of time a case takes to work its way through the system. Each veteran’s case is different and can have any number of issues pending. Additionally, VA regional offices around the country move at different speeds and have varying backlogs of claims and appeals.
To get a better picture of what your wait times might be, check out our infographic on average VA wait times, which uses the latest data from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
Q: Based on the information I provided you, does it sound like a have a good case?
A: Unfortunately, our intake specialists (the folks you’ll talk to when you request our services) will not be able to answer this question for you. The information you provide to them when you call the office will be reviewed by one of our veterans’ law practitioners who will determine if we are able to assist you.
Once we receive the documentation we need from you, we will let you know within 48 hours if we can assist you with your case.
Q: How far will you go with my case?
A: You can count on us to do our best in helping you win the benefits to which you are entitled. We are one of the few firms in the country that is equipped to take cases to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) and even to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. If your case gets to that point, we are equipped to assess if there are legal grounds to appeal your case to the Court.
Q: Why do I need representation at the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC)?
A: The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, known as the CAVC or simply the Court, is the first time in your case that you have the right to independent, outside judicial review of your case. The CAVC is not part of the VA. The CAVC is a Court of Judicial Review, which means it is not like the VA Regional Office or the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA).
The CAVC’s only job is to determine whether or not the BVA applied the law correctly when it denied your appeal. The CAVC does not accept new evidence or arguments of fact: it only accepts arguments founded in the law. When you proceed on your own (without representation) at the CAVC, you go up against experienced attorneys employed by the VA who know the law. Without a qualified attorney to identify the legal issues and arguments in your case, you are at a significant disadvantage.
The CAVC seldom grants benefits. If your attorney is able to convince the VA’s attorney or the CAVC that the BVA did not apply the law correctly when it denied your appeal, the CAVC will remand (send back) your appeal to the BVA for a new decision.