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Appealing to the CAVC

Appealing to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC)

1. What is the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims? What is the CAVC, or the Court?

2. The CAVC appeals system different from that of the VA?

3. How do you file an appeal to the Court?

  • Is there a deadline?
  • Do veterans have to appeal final Board/BVA decision? Under the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP)?

4. What can veterans expect after the Notice of Appeal is filed?

  • CAVC Filing Fee and/or fee waiver
  • Office of General Counsel (OGC) Consent Form

5. Record Before the Agency (RBA)

  • What is in the RBA?
  • Can you add evidence to the RBA?

6. Pre-Briefing Conference

7. Briefs and the Briefing Process

  • Informal briefs for veterans representing themselves

8. Do veterans have to attend a hearing?

  • Do they have to travel to Washington, DC?

9. CAVC Judges

  • Single Judge vs. Panel decisions

10. Oral Arguments

  • How to listen to CAVC Oral Arguments
  • How to see the CAVC docket

11. Types of CAVC Decisions

  • Vacating
  • Remands
  • Grants
  • Reversals

12. What if a veteran disagrees with the Court’s decision?

  • Motion of Reconsideration at the CAVC
  • En Banc Decisions
  • Appealing to the Federal Circuit

13. Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) for attorney fees

  • Contingency fees
  • What if the attorney loses?
  • Can the attorney appeal an EAJA decision?

14. Are there additional fees involved the Court appeals process?

  • Retainer fees

15. CAVC Cases on the Public Record

  • Will a veteran’s personal information be shared?
  • Is it possible to keep the record closed or use pseudonyms for claimants?

16. How long does the CAVC appeals process take?

  • Current system vs. past system

17. Concluding Thoughts

Video Transcription.

Christian: Good afternoon. My name is Christian McTarnaghan and I’m an attorney here at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick, and thank you for tuning in to our Facebook live. With me today is April Donahower, who’s also an attorney at the firm and Barbara Cook who is a partner here at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick. Today we’re going to be talking about appealing decisions to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, otherwise known as the CAVC, so let’s just jump right in. So Barb, what is the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims?

Barbara: It is a court that is dedicated to hearing the appeals of claimants, veterans, as well as their dependents, who have lost cases before the Board of Veterans Appeals. It was created by Congress actually in 1988. VA benefits have been around since the Civil War but there was never until 1988 a way in which people could appeal denials. The Veterans Court at one point referred to the pre-1988 era as an era of splendid isolation because once the VA made a final decision, once the Board of Veterans Appeals made a final decision, there was nowhere for a claimant to get an additional review. So, the court was created in 1988. It currently has nine judges. They sit in Washington DC although sometimes they hold arguments at law schools throughout the country, and so that’s what the court is.

Christian: So, how is the court different than what many veterans might understand a little bit better which is the process at VA, April?

April: One principal way in which it’s different is that the court appeal system is adversarial. So, listeners or watchers might be familiar with the duty to assist for example at VA, which is part of VA’s duty to help the claimant to get every benefit that is supported by the law and the facts. When a veteran or other claimant appeals to the court that relationship switches to an adversarial one where the role of VA or the attorney representing VA is to defend the Board’s decision against the appeal.

Christian: So, it’s–

Barbara: Let me just add that the Veterans Court is not part of the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is a separate entity. And so, the court is independent, it does not answer in any way to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs unlike the Board and the regional office.

Christian: And if you call the court that’s actually the first thing that the phone number says when I’m calling to talk to a clerk that reminds me of that every single time. So, we’re sort of talking about what the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims is, how the system works a little bit. So, how do we get an appeal started?

Barbara: Once the Board issues a final decision then the claimant, typically the veteran, has 120 days to file an appeal with the court.

Christian: How important is that 120 days?

Barbara: That is critical. There is an exception. The 120 days the person can file either a motion for reconsideration with the Board of Veterans Appeals in which case if they meet that 120-day period, they then have another 120 days after the board issues a decision on the motion for reconsideration. But in terms of just directly appealing there’s 120 days, not four months but 120 days in which to file an appeal with the CAVC. To file the appeal, it is a simple matter, it’s a pretty simple paperwork thing. The court actually has a form on its website that people can fill out, but basically, the court needs to know what the date of the Board decision is that’s being appealed and the claimants C-file number, the name and they want to appeal. That’s all they need to know. Their address and phone number, that’s all they need to know to start the appeal process.

The appeal can be mailed or faxed or emailed to the court. Certainly, if someone mails it we would urge that they use some means of proving that the court received it like a sort of like email return receive requested, keep the copy of the fax confirmation sheet, that sort of thing because the 120 days as you indicated Christian is critical. If the person misses the 120 days it’s possible but very unlikely that the court will accept the appeal.

Christian: Absolutely, so 121 days doesn’t cut it. Has to be on 120 or fewer than that. So, do veterans have to appeal final Board decisions?

Barbara: Well, if they want the court to review it, yes. They can as I indicated ask the Board to reconsider its decision. They can also just start the process over and right now actually they can start the process over by submitting new and material evidence to the regional office but they would lose their earlier effective date of the date of claim or the day they sought an increased rating. We are in the midst of, or just at the starting stages rather of what VA calls RAMP, the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program, and that when people get decisions under that program they have the opportunity to submit new and relevant evidence to the regional office and keep their claim alive that way instead of appealing to the court.

Christian: Some of our viewers might be familiar with the ramp letters that VA’s been sending out to a lot of veterans recently. So, I think we’ve covered the notice of appeal pretty well. So, the notice of appeal gets your appeal started and then what can veterans expect after the notice of appeal is filed?

Barbara: At that point, once the notice of appeal is filed the court issues was called a docketing statement or docketing order, acknowledging that the appeal has been filed, and advising the appellant at that point is what we call that person whose case it is, advising that person that they must file one of two things. Either pay the court a $50 filing fee or ask that that filing fee be waived. Again, the court has a very simple form for the waiver of the filing fee. It basically just says that the person is not able to afford to pay the $50 filing fee, and—

Christian: Declaration of financial hardship, I believe?

Barbara: Correct. Sometimes in other courts, the courts will demand that the person file detailed information–

Christian: Some sort of proof.

Barbara: –about their income and their expenses and that sort of thing in order to justify not paying the filing fee but the CAVC does not have that onerous of a requirement on people. The other thing that then will happen is that then the office of General Counsel which is the agency within the Department of Veterans Affairs that represents the Secretary on the court cases, they will send a letter to the person who’s appealing with a form asking them to sign the form to indicate that the person agrees that the claims file can be filed with the court. The claims file itself is just sections of it become filed with the court. That part is not public record but the VA still nonetheless needs that consent in order to share the file with the court.

Christian: So, the next step is the record before the agency. You want to talk a little bit about that April?

April: Sure, and just before the record before the agency VA will transmit the Board decision that’s on appeal.

Christian: Absolutely, that’s correct.

April: So, Barb mentioned that in the notice of appeal the veteran will indicate the date of the board decision being appealed and VA will then transmit that decision to the court and serve a copy on the appellant at that point.

Christian: And it always makes sense to make sure that the version that you have is the same version that was transmitted. It doesn’t happen very often and I think it happened once so far in my career that they were actually two different versions maybe an unpublished version and a published version the decision, so always make sure that you take a look at that Board decision when it’s transmitted.

April: Or in a rare case two decisions may have been made on the same day. So, make sure that the one that you actually appealed is the one that was transmitted.

Christian: Absolutely.

April: So, to your question about the record before the agency that is the claims file that as it existed when the Board made its decision and any other material that was before the board that made its decision. So, what will happen is that the Office of General Counsel will file a document with the court letting the court know that a copy of that was served on the appellant. The entire record itself is not filed with the court in most cases but it is given to the appellant.

Christian: So, is it supposed to have literally everything in the record before the agency, every treatment record, every VA treatment record, every submission that the veteran has ever made to VA?

April: Everything that the Board mentions in its decision and everything that existed as of the date of the Board’s decision will be in there. So, there is a time period during which the record can be disputed. So, if there’s something that the board mentions in its decision and in that record before the agency we usually call it an RBA. The RBA can be disputed as in completely representing what was before the Board.

Christian: So, what if a veteran gets the RBA, the record before the agency and they want to add something to be considered by the court? Is that something that they’re allowed to do?

April: Unfortunately, no. The court decides the case on the basis of the record that was before the Board, so we call that a closed record so an appellant cannot add anything at that point in time.

Barbara: Except that if the appellant—if the record does not contain, if the record before the agency, the RBA, is incomplete in some way, in other words sometimes it does not contain all the VA Medical Center records that the veteran knows he received treatment or a private medical record that he knows he sent to VA before the Board decision was finalized. And so that he can say, “Wait, you have to add this information because it was before the Board, it should have been in my file, here’s proof that I’d sent it in.” Sometimes for example, veterans are in vocational rehabilitation through VA and those records are not in the file or they’ve told VA to get their Social Security records and those records are not in the file. If those existed and the VA knew about them at the time of the Board decision then that’s an example of something that the veteran could add to the file but cannot, as April said, add new evidence.

Christian: Sure, so that’s different than say, “I went to my doctor yesterday and got this new treatment record that I really — I’ve had clients definitely call me and ask me that before, and unfortunately that’s just not the way it works. If the Board couldn’t look at it then we can’t add it to the record now because then it’s not something they could have used to make that decision.” So, okay. We have our appeal going. We’ve paid our filing fee. We’ve let the VA give the court the record, which I always thought was an interesting little part of this with the OGC consent form. We’ve gotten the record before the agency. We’ve identified that there’s nothing that’s not in there that’s supposed to be in there. What happens next April?

April: There’s something called a pre-briefing conference which is a way for the parties possibly to agree that the case needs to go back to the Board because they agree that the Board made a certain mistake in its decision. Generally, pre-briefing conferences are available to everyone but they’re usually only scheduled when the appellant has an attorney representing him or her at the court. So, what happens in that conference is that an attorney who works for the court itself will call both parties on the phone. In advance of that call the appellant’s attorney will have submitted a 10 page memo maximum that explains what the errors and the Board’s decision are, and then the parties will have a chance to discuss that in the telephone conference and see if they can come to some kind of common ground there which is a way of resolving the appeal quite a bit more quickly.

Christian: Okay. So, at that once we have the pre-briefing conference, there’s sort of a decision tree, right? It can either, as April alluded to, be resolved relatively quickly and end up in a joint motion for remand which moves the case from the court back down to the Board. What if it doesn’t result in a joint motion for remand? What’s a brief?

April: Option B is briefing. So, option B is taking the arguments that may have been submitted in that pre-briefing memorandum and giving them to a judge to make a decision on the claim. So, a brief is a list of all the arguments as to why the Board’s denial of the claim in its decision on appeal was wrong. And the requirements for what has to be in a brief differ depending on whether the appellant has an attorney or not. So, if the appellant doesn’t have an attorney then an informal brief is acceptable, and that is sufficient if it identifies the appellant basically and just lets the court know what the appellant thinks is wrong with the Board’s decision. When there’s an attorney representing the appellant there are some formal requirements. There has to be a Statement of the Case for example that says, “How we got to this point? What happened at the agency? What the relevant facts are? There has to be an argument section. There have to be citations to the RBA pages that support the factual assertions being made and some other formal requirements.”

There are usually three briefs that go to a judge. So, there’s the appellant opening brief that has the statement of facts and the initial arguments. Then Office of General Counsel is allowed to respond to those arguments in its own brief, and then the appellant has the last word so to speak in what’s called a reply brief that in which you can’t raise any new arguments but you can respond to the arguments that the general counsel attorney made.

Barbara: I would add that the court also has a forum for people who are representing themselves at court that outlines this informal brief. It just asks some specific questions. What do you think was wrong with the Board decision, and has just a fill in the blanks kind of format that helps people I think focus on what it is the court wants to hear about.

Christian: Is that also something that veterans might be able to find on the court’s website similar to the duty or financial hardship and the notice of appeal?

Barbara: Yes, definitely.

Christian: So, now that we’re on to briefing and it’s going to the judge in Washington. Barb, does a veteran half do you attend a hearing? Do they have to go to Washington DC to get their case decided?

Barbara: No, no. In fact, most of the cases are decided simply just based on the paper submissions, the written briefs that are sent to the court. Occasionally the court will schedule oral arguments. They rarely do that. I’m not sure they’ve ever done it where somebody has been representing, where a person is representing themselves, but even if their case is set for an oral argument and they’re represented by counsel, they do not have to appear at that. It’s not a trial court. There’s no evidence being taken. It is simply the legal arguments, legal and factual arguments that are being presented to the court.

Christian: So, once all the briefs have been submitted, April, who is making this decision as to whether or not the Board made an error?

April: Most often it’s a single judge at the court. So, when all of the briefs are in the case will get assigned to a judge and there can be cases where a panel of three judges will make a decision on the appeal instead of just one judge, there’s a test for when three judges need to make a decision. Usually, if the cases of relative simplicity I think the description is, a single judge may decide it, and if it’s not that then it needs to go to a panel of three judges.

Christian: So, something that’s decided relatively frequently with ease compared to something that’s maybe more important and going to change something about the law or make a different sort of understanding of how the law stands. That’s probably going to be a panel of three judges, right?

April: Exactly, and the vast majority of cases we’re just talking about whether the board applied existing law correctly to the facts, and in that case a single judge can decide it. Then the court can decide on its own whether it wants to decide as a panel of three judges instead of a single judge, or in certain cases the appellant could ask the court to decide as a panel of three judges, and then would have to show why the case meets that test and needs to be decided by a panel.

Christian: Can anyone listen to these arguments or is it a special sort of password-protected area on the court’s website?

April: No, oral arguments as well as the decisions that the court issues are all available on the court’s website, which is a great resource not only for the forms and the decisions and arguments we’ve mentioned but for the rules governing how the court decides things you can get a sense of how the whole process works by looking at the website.

Christian: So, what are these do?

April: Well, because the other thing April makes an excellent point about what it’s available on the court’s website because the other thing that’s available on their website is the actual docket. In other words, the list of all the papers that have been filed in the case and so a person can look at the briefs that have been filed in his case as well as briefs that have been filed in other people’s cases.

Christian: Absolutely.

April: I wanted to loop back to something called the record of proceedings, which I think we touched on and just in terms of talking about the docket. Almost every document in a docket for a case is publicly available. One that isn’t is what’s called the record of proceedings and that’s just the selected pages from the record before the agency that the parties refer to in their brief and that the court will be looking at when it makes a decision and that is protected so that you have to have an appearance entered in the case in order to be able to view that.

Christian: The regular proceedings would have all of the veteran’s medical records, maybe addresses, things like that that we don’t really want everyone to be able to see. So, that’s just a way to protect that whereas all the other information is going to be a little bit more out in the open. So, what kinds or types of decisions are the judges making in these appeals?

April: The court generally will affirm the Board’s decision or it will vacate the Board’s decision and remand the case back to the Board for the Board to make a new decision. So, an affirmance as it sounds is the court saying that the Board did its job correctly, did not make any errors of law or else if it did it wouldn’t have changed the outcome for the veteran. When the court vacates and remands it finds a legal error in the Board’s decision it will issue a decision explaining what that error is and it will send the appeal back to the Board to follow the instructions that it has set out–

Christian: So basically, I think of it as they throw away the current Board decision. They tell the board to do it again because they did something wrong. So the vacating is the crumpling up to the board decision throwing it away and then they send it back to the Board to make a new decision on that same appeal.

April: In very rare circumstances you’ll have what’s called a reversal. The court generally only has the power to send the case back for a redo as you described, but in a rare few cases, the court can reverse, for example, the Board’s denial of service connection. And then it will send the case back for the board to grant service connection as it has ordered the Board to do, but like I said again it’s very rare.

Christian: So, let’s say veteran has appealed their decision. They go through the entire process and a judge decides that there was nothing wrong with the board decision at all, of the affirmance. They affirm the Board’s decision in its entirety. Is there anything that a veteran could do next?

April: You have two options if you disagree with the court’s decision or two general options and there are some more within there. One is a motion for reconsideration and–

Christian: At the court which is different than a motion for reconsideration back to the Board and then talking what we did.

April: Exactly. So, more specifically what your option is depends on who made the initial decision at the court. So, if one judge made the decision you can ask that judge to reconsider a motion for reconsideration or you can ask a panel to make a decision. If a panel decided the case you can ask for reconsideration or you can ask the whole court, which is called en banc, to take a look at the case. The second option generally speaking besides reconsideration is to appeal the CAVC’s decision to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals which is sort of the next level up in the federal system.

Barbara: Those appeals are very difficult because the Federal Circuit has very limited ability to review what the Court of Appeals for Veteran’s Claims has done. It has to basically be an error of law and it’s not enough to say, “Well, they made the wrong decision,” It’s not enough to say, “They got the facts wrong.” There has to be a specific legal error for the Federal Circuit to even have the ability to review what the Veterans Court did.

Christian: I don’t practice in the Federal Circuit but what I’ve heard is although you can take cases to the Federal Circuit without being attorney, self-represented it is difficult.

Barbara: It is very challenging.

Christian: It’s challenging. It’s not as easy as it would be and as I think the CAVC has tried to make it, it’s just a different type of court, a different type of practice it can be quite difficult. It’s difficult even for attorneys to get to the Federal Circuit. Okay. So, now your case is over. Hopefully, you’ve gotten a favorable decision. What’s the next process in a court case after the court has decided the case? It continues just a little bit longer?

Barbara: It does. It can continue a little bit longer. If you are represented by a lawyer or an advocate that person is permitted to file a request for what are called EAJA fees, E-A-J-A stands for the Equal Access to Justice Act. What that Act provides is that when a person has won a case against the federal government that they can under certain circumstances have the federal government, in this case, the VA pay reasonable attorneys fees to their attorney. It is roughly depending on where the attorney is. It is roughly $200 an hour but nonetheless, that is an option that many lawyers will pursue. They have to show that they won the case but for purposes of the equal access to justice act at the Veterans Court getting the case sent back to the Board. It doesn’t require reversal or grant of benefits in order for the person to file for these fees. It’s enough typically if the case is sent back. Not always but typically if the case is sent back to the Board that’s enough for the lawyer, advocate to see fees. Those fees though that the attorney would get paid for them, but if the attorney continues to represent the veteran at the agency and then wins the case of the agency and gets a contingency fee based on that victory before the regional office of the Board, then the money that the lawyer received under the Equal Access to Justice Act acts as a credit against the contingency fee.

Christian: So, what if an attorney files an application for EAJA fees and it’s denied? Is there anything that they can do about that?

Barbara: Well, they can again as with a denial the of the claim itself, they can pursue an appeal to the Federal Circuit but it is very unlikely in those circumstances that the Federal Circuit will do anything because as I mentioned before the Federal Circuit only has the ability to get involved or review Veterans Court cases if there’s an issue of law, and typically if the request for fees is denied it’s based on some factual determination that the Veterans Court has made.

Christian: So, now switching back to the veteran or the client. Are there any fees other than the filing fee that you had described at the beginning of the case that a veteran should be prepared to have to pay their attorney throughout the course of an appeal to the court?

Barbara: Well, those would be dictated by what the retainer agreement says. Many lawyers require that the client reimburse them for costs. So, if there are mailing costs for example, they might have to reimburse them for that, but at the court itself since again, since it’s not a trial process, there’s nobody’s calling witnesses, nobody’s subpoenaing witnesses, nobody’s paying in expert fees for that sort of thing. So, there’s typically not any costs, but your question reminds me that of how critical it is to pay the filing fee or to file the papers with the court indicating that you are not able to do so. Because that is a basis that the court will dismiss the case if you have not either had a waiver of the fee or paid the fee and the court will give you 14 days from the date that it dockets the case to pay that fee or to ask that the fee waived and if you don’t do that then they give you I think typically another 20 days. After that, you better have a very, very good excuse for not having paid because they will dismiss the case.

Christian: So, let’s say and it’s you have an attorney that takes your case to court and they’re not successful in getting a remand or any sort of favorable decision. Does the veteran then have to pay anything for the hours that the attorney spent working on that case?

Barbara: Well, again it depends on what the retainer agreement says. Attorneys are permitted to charge claimants at that point but typically lawyers in VA do not charge a client unless there is a success on some level.

Christian: So, make sure to read any sort of retainer agreement that you have, that’s the name in the game here.

So, sort of moving more broadly to other concerns or other thoughts about the appeal process, this is something that was alluded to earlier. It’s good to keep in mind right that everything that’s filed with the exception of probably most often the record of proceedings is public. Is there anything Barb that veteran or someone that’s filing appeal might be able to do about that if they’re not comfortable about their information being made public?

Barbara: There is and it is true. Let me back up just a minute to say, “Yes, it’s true that the record of proceedings there and the record before the agency typically the claims file are not made public, but the Board decision itself is public.” It does not have the veterans address or clean number on it but the claimant’s name is on there and the entire board decision is on their including for example, doctor’s names that would appear and the name of the regional office, that sort of thing.

Christian: And about symptoms and things like that about the disability.

Barbara: So, the court does have two processes though for people who would prefer not to have this information available. They’re not widely used exceptions, the court is very committed to the openness of its processes and to its decision making and so just being concerned is probably not enough but there is a possibility for people to close a record. To ask the court to actually close the entire record which means that then even the Board decision is not available to the public to see. Typically, the court will do that in situations where it would really be harmful to the claimant to have that information made public. It’s also possible to file a claim under what’s called a pseudonym and typically like you can think of it in terms of Jane Doe or the court will assign initials AZ or something like that, to again in rare circumstances where the information should not be made public for some reason and they will allow the person to file under the pseudonym. I had a case, I’ve had a couple of cases, for example, where the person appealing was a survivor of abuse and the abuser was under protective order not to contact the person but there was evidence that the abuser was continuing to try to seek the person out, and the court readily agreed that that file should be closed and the person could file under a pseudonym. So that if the abuser attempted to find out any information that veteran’s court was not going to be the place where that could be found.

Christian: So, we’ve been talking about this sort of very procedurally because that’s the whole point of this. How long does this all take, April?

April: That depends on the decision tree that you mentioned earlier, so it could vary significantly. If the parties come to an agreement at the pre-briefing conference, the appeal could be over in as little as six months or less start to finish. If–

Robert: Hi. I thought I join today, is that okay?

Barbara: Of course.

Christian: Come on in.

Robert: I heard you’re talking about the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, is that true?

April:  Yes, we are.

Christian: Absolutely.

Robert: What are we talking about now?

Christian: Right now, we’re talking about how long the process typically takes.

Robert: Presently?

Christian: Presently. So, April was discussing for a remand how long and then so what if it were the other part of that decision tree and went to a briefing, how long does that take?

April: If it goes to briefing it can be a year or more, and if the court schedules oral argument it could go even longer than that.

Christian: And then there’s exceptions even to those two rules which are when cases are stayed pending presidential decisions. I still have the case that’s ongoing from 2014, so that’s been an exorbitantly long amount of time. So that part comes back to what Barb was saying which is make sure you take a look at the docket, make sure you understand what’s going on, but more or less it’s six months or a year or a little bit more, hopefully, if everything goes according to plan.

Barbara: And by stayed.

Christian: Of course. So, when a case, a really big case is being decided, one of the cases that April was talking about earlier that was decided by three judges, a panel decision that’s going to change something or do something interesting with the law. If another case is related to that case they push the pause button on that case to just keep it on hold until this really important decision that’s going to affect it as decided.

Robert: So, I just wanted to say that historically speaking the court used to take a lot longer to get to a Mem Dec. So, when Barb and I started practicing it could be almost two years and see you’ve had a decision. So, they’ve gotten faster over the years which is good for everybody, frankly.

Barbara: It is because when it was taking that long two or three years to get a decision, then there was a lot of pressure on people to accept very bad offers from the VA in terms of ways to send the case back to the Board. But now that pressure has lessened considerably.

Robert: Yes, that is true.

April: I believe you told me that at one point parties could take unlimited extensions–

Barbara: That is also true. That is also true, yes, and so people would just file for an extension after extension, and now when you are under an order to file any document you are limited to one 60-day extension.

Christian: So, we are actually coming to the any last advice part of this segment, Robert, so I think since you’re coming in a little bit later anything you would like to say about the CAVC appeals process?

Robert: I think if people receive a denial from the Board of Veteran’s Appeals, they should seriously consider appealing the decision to the court. I think the most important thing is to get the appeal in within that 120 days because if you don’t most times that will be the end of the appeal unless there’s some kind of tolling exception and let’s not go down that path. So, appeal, and then the second thing I think it’s important to be represented if you’re a veteran. The system at court is adversarial the VA will and I’m sure you covered this, so the VA will have an attorney and it’s important to get an advocate on your side. Those would be my two main takeaways.

Christian: Anything you’d like to add, Barb?

Barbara: No, I just agree entirely. Veteran’s law is complex. It’s not simple and their rules can be tricky, and there’s lots of things that have, lots of I’s to be dotted and T’s crossed when you’re working on a brief. Even an informal brief then the court will read those informal self-represented briefs very liberally, they will do their best to understand what the veteran or appellant is trying to argue but it just becomes very tricky especially when you have a lawyer opposing you who perceives his job to be defending the Board no matter what the Board has done. Sometimes the VA will agree that the Board has made mistakes but typically they do not.

Christian: Anything you like to add, April?

April: No.

Christian: The last point that I would like to make is, this is an incredibly long process. I haven’t experienced it personally but there are a lot of clients that I have who have been working on their claims from start to finish for five years, ten years, more. It feels impossible but people do have successful outcomes, successful appeals can lead to grants. So keep fighting, keep working, try to see if you can get an attorney to help but these are things that can have good outcomes at the end of the story, even though it may feel insurmountable.

Barbara: Agreed.

Robert: Any last-minute questions from any of– nope. Hey, thanks for let me jump in and unexpected, I really appreciate it.

Christian: You’re very welcome. Well, thank you very much everybody and I hope you have a great rest of your day.