What is the “hearing docket” at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals?
Under Appeals Reform, the Board provides three dockets for claimants to choose from when submitting a Notice of Disagreement: the direct docket, evidence docket, and hearing docket. The hearing docket is for claimants who want to have a hearing before a Veterans Law Judge. Hearings in the new appeals system will either take place at the Board in Washington, D.C. or via videoconference. Importantly, travel board hearings held by Veterans Law Judges at local Regional Offices will only be available to claimants in the Legacy appeals system. Overall, claimants are entitled to a hearing on any issue involved in an appeal.
What evidence is allowed during Board hearings?
Board hearings permit claimants to introduce into the record, in person, any available evidence which they consider relevant and any arguments or contentions that they may consider pertinent to their VA disability claim. Additionally, claimants have the opportunity to produce witnesses, but the witnesses must be present for the hearing. The Board will then consider the following evidence in rendering its decision:
- The evidence of record at the time of the agency of original jurisdiction (AOJ) decision on the issue or issues on appeal;
- The evidence submitted by the claimant and/or his or her representative at the hearing, to include testimony at the hearing; and
- The evidence submitted by the claimant and/or his or her representative within 90 days following the hearing
- However, the Board will NOT consider evidence submitted by the claimant after the initial rating decision but before the hearing.
What is the process involved with Board hearings?
How to Request a Hearing
Claimants have the opportunity to request a Board hearing when submitting their Notice of Disagreement. In doing so, claimants must elect the hearing docket option. Requests for hearings at any other time or in any other format will be rejected.
Board’s Determination of the Method of Hearing
The new appeals system gives the Board the authority, upon request for a hearing, to determine what type of hearing it will provide a claimant, while affording the claimant the opportunity to request an alternative type of hearing once the Board makes its initial determination. Specifically, the Board will determine if the hearing will be held in Washington, D.C. or by videoconference at a local VA office. After making its initial determination, the Board will notify the claimant and/or his or her representative of the method by which the hearing will take place.
How to Request a Change in the Method of Hearing
If a claimant declines to participate in the method of hearing selected by the Board, the opportunity to participate in the hearing will not be affected. Claimants are allowed to make one request for a different method of hearing. The Board will grant the request and then notify the claimant of the change.
Notification of Scheduling a Hearing
The Board will notify the claimant and/or his or her representative of the scheduled time and location of the hearing at least 30 days prior to the hearing date.
Board Hearing Transcript
Following the hearing, the Board must provide a copy of the hearing transcript if requested by the claimant or the claimant’s representative.
What if a claimant needs to reschedule the hearing?
Requests to change Board hearing dates may be made at any time up to two weeks prior to the scheduled date of the hearing if good cause is shown. Examples of good cause include, but are not limited to, illness of the claimant, difficulty in obtaining necessary records, and the unavailability of necessary witnesses. Such requests must be filed with the Board in writing and explain why a new hearing date is necessary. If good cause is shown, the hearing will be rescheduled for the next available date.
If a hearing request is withdrawn, the Board decision will be based on a review of the evidence already of record and any evidence submitted within 90 days of receipt of withdrawal. Likewise, if a claimant does not appear for his or her hearing and it is not rescheduled, the Board will review the evidence already of record and any evidence submitted within 90 days of the scheduled hearing.