01 Sep Appealing a VA Decision: A Step-by-Step Guide
If you believe you’ve been denied VA benefits you rightfully deserve or received lower benefits than expected, you have the right to appeal most VA decisions within one year of the initial decision date. However, after one year, the decision becomes final and can only be appealed in cases of clear VA errors.
Step One: Notify the VA
To initiate an appeal, you must formally notify the VA of your disagreement. This notification is called a “Notice of Disagreement.” In this letter, specify the aspects of the decision you disagree with, whether it’s the denial of certain benefits or the awarded benefit amounts.
- For disability claims, use VA Form 21-0958, “Notice of Disagreement,” which can be downloaded at [link](https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-0958-ARE.pdf).
- For other claims, your Notice of Disagreement should include your identifying information and the specific denials or amounts you’re appealing.
Step Two: Decide Whether to Officially Appeal
After sending your Notice of Disagreement, the VA may reconsider your claim and grant the benefits you seek. In most cases, you’ll receive a “Statement of the Case,” which includes:
- Descriptions of the relevant guidelines, rules, regulations, or laws the VA followed in its decision.
- An explanation of why these guidelines led to their decision.
- A copy of VA Form 9, “Appeal To Board of Veterans’ Appeals.”
At this point, you can either accept their ruling or complete VA Form 9 to officially appeal.
Step Three: File Your Claim with the Board of Veterans Appeals
If you choose to appeal the VA’s decision, mail VA Form 9 within 60 days of receiving your Statement of the Case or within a year of the original decision date, whichever is later. The form includes options for requesting a hearing before the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA).
You’ll have 90 days from the notification that your claim has been forwarded to the BVA to:
- Gather and submit additional evidence.
- Find or change legal representation.
Step Four: Attend a Board of Veterans Appeals Hearing (If Requested)
You have several options when requesting a hearing before the BVA:
- Teleconferencing, which may cause some delay.
- A hearing at the BVA’s Washington, D.C. office, resulting in more significant delays.
- A hearing at your regional VA office, leading to further delays.
The hearing itself will be informal and is not subject to the strict rules of evidence that apply in federal court proceedings, nor will it involve being cross-examined by the Board’s representative. The Veteran Laws Judge may ask you questions, and you or your representative will be given the opportunity to argue your case.
After the hearing, the Board will do one of three things:
- Grant your appeal
- Deny your appeal
- Ask for the original VA office that received the appeal for more information before making a ruling
The hearing is informal and not subject to the strict rules of federal court proceedings. You won’t face cross-examination by the BVA’s representative. The Veteran Laws Judge may ask questions, and you or your representative will have the opportunity to argue your case.
After the hearing, the BVA may:
- Grant your appeal.
- Deny your appeal.
- Request additional information from the original VA office that received the appeal before making a ruling.
If your appeal is granted, the process concludes. If not, you have further options to pursue your benefits.
Step Five: Motion to Reconsider or Appeal to the Federal Court System
Your next steps depend on your reasons for continuing the appeal:
- You can file a motion for the BVA to reconsider if you believe they made an obvious error of fact or law, obtained new material evidence, or made a “clear and unmistakable error” (CUE motion). There’s no time limit for filing this motion.
- For other reasons, you can take your case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims within 120 days of the BVA’s decision.
The court will not hold a new trial or receive new evidence but will review the record considered by the BVA. The court may allow oral arguments.
If the court overturns the BVA’s ruling, you may receive your benefits or a new hearing before the BVA as directed by the court. If the court upholds the BVA’s decision, you can further appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and, if necessary, to the Supreme Court.