Decisions handed down by the VA become final after their appeal period has ended. Appeal periods vary depending on what type of decision the VA issues. For instance, claimants have one year from the date of a rating decision to file their Notice of Disagreement. If the VA issues a Statement of the Case, a claimant has 60 days to file a VA Form 9 to appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. If a claimant does not appeal with the given time frame, the VA decision becomes final.
After filing an initial claim, the VA Regional Office will issue a Rating Decision either granting or denying the benefits sought. If a claimant disagrees with this VA decision, they have one year from the date of the notification letter sent with the decision to file a Notice of Disagreement. If the one year passes, the rating decision becomes final and the claimant must then reopen their claim.
If a claimant files a Notice of Disagreement within the one year appeal period, the VA will likely issue a decision called a Statement of the Case. In order to appeal this decision, claimants must file a VA Form 9, appealing their case to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in Washington, D.C. Claimants only have 60 days to submit the VA Form 9 to the Regional Office. If they do not file the VA Form 9 within the 60 days, the VA’s decision in the Statement of the Case becomes final.
If the Board of Veterans’ Appeals denies a claim, the claimant has 120 days to appeal their decision to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). If they do not appeal, the Board’s decision becomes final and the claimant must reopen their claim at the Regional Office.
Reopening a Claim After a Final Decision
If a claimant wants to pursue entitlement to a benefit after a VA decision becomes final, or if they miss an appeal deadline, they must reopen their claim. Veterans can reopen a claim by filling out a claim form and requesting to reopen their closed claim. However, claimants must include “new and material evidence” in order for their case to be reopened.
For evidence to be considered “new,” it must be submitted to the VA for the first time, meaning VA does not already have it. In order to be considered “material,” evidence must be relevant to the reason or reasons why the VA previously denied the claim.
Can I Challenge a Final Decision?
Claimants can challenge a final decision based on a “clear and unmistakable error” (“CUE”). If a claimant believes that the VA misapplied the law when making its decision, he or she can file a claim based on CUE and argue that the original decision was wrong. Proving a CUE is extremely difficult for claimants.
CUEs can only be filed for a decision that is final, meaning a decision that the claimant did not appeal. There is no statute of limitations on filing a CUE claim, so claimants can allege a CUE any time following a final decision.