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Sean Kendall

Legislation Proposed to Reduce Appeal Delays


Posted on Feb 04, 2016

The Senate has proposed legislation for a new program to reduce the amount of time it takes a VA claim to get from the VA Regional Office to the Board of Veterans. Appeals (BVA).  The bill came about from a consortium of Veterans groups, legislatures, and the VA, who have been addressing the issue.  The bill will would provide the opportunity for a veteran to elect an "express appeal" to the Board.  Currently it takes over 1000 days for a case to reach the Board from the VA Regional Office (after the VA substantive appeal Form 9 is filed).  However, with an express appeal, a veteran is expected to get to the BVA in a much shorter period of time.  

However, in exchange for an express appeal, a veteran gives up the right to have a hearing before the Board, or to introduce any new evidence.  A veteran would also give up the right to have the VA further develop any evidence.

Generally, I am not in favor of any new appeals process that requires veterans to give up their hard won rights to appeal.  However, in certain circumstances, an express appeal may favor a veteran.  For example, where a veteran hires an attorney, and the appeal is properly developed and the evidentiary record is complete, an express appeal would serve getting the case to the Board much quicker.  The BVA is usually much more fair to veteans than the Regional Office, so getting a quick decision is favorable.  For example, in an unemployability case, where our firm has obtained an expert medical opinion from a vocational rehabilitation examiner, there is no need for further evidentiary development; the Regional Office is simply wrong in denying benefits and a quick decision from the Board is necessary to overturn such decision.

However, if a veteran has represented by a VSO, and that VSO has done no development, buy the time I get the case at the Board, I ussually need to develop the case.  So if a veteran comes to me with an express appeal in such a case, the new process will have to be opted out of in order to submit expert medical opinion or some other evidence in the case.

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