You might be feeling apprehensive after learning that you can request a board hearing with a Veterans law judge. However, this hearing is nothing like the criminal court hearings you’ve seen on TV and can be a vital tool to help you access the VA disability benefits you deserve.
Requesting a BVA Hearing With a Veterans Law Judge
You are not required to have a hearing with a Veterans law judge, but this step is typically recommended as a way to strengthen your appeal. The BVA hearing is an opportunity for you to present evidence to the judge about why your claim should be granted. It is not enough to simply say that you disagree with the decision to deny your claim.
To request your hearing, check block 11c, Hearing with a Veterans Law Judge, on the Decision Review Request: Board Appeal form (VA Form 10182). You can request an in-person hearing or a hearing that takes place via videoconference. Hearings are scheduled in docket order and you’ll be notified at least 30 days before your hearing is scheduled.
BVA hearings are intended to be non-adversarial. The judge’s role is to review the evidence and apply the law as written. All judges are licensed attorneys who were selected as BVA judges because of their experience as attorneys with VA cases and law—and many are Veterans themselves. Each judge has a team of attorneys and administrative staff who assist with paperwork and reviewing claims, but only the judge makes the final ruling.
What the Judge Does at Your Hearing
A BVA hearing generally takes about 30 minutes. The judge will first swear you in by asking you to take an oath stating that you’ll tell the truth during the hearing. You’ll give your testimony and tell the judge why you think you qualify for benefits, then the judge will ask questions about your statement and any new evidence you’ve presented.
The judge won’t issue a decision until the 90-day time period for submitting new evidence has passed or you’ve formally waived this requirement. The judge will review the hearing transcript and all evidence in your file before making a decision.
What Judges Want to See
How can you increase your odds of a favorable ruling from the judge? Most Veterans law judges say the top error they see in cases occurs when the Veteran fails to gather and submit all the relevant evidence they have as early as possible. Judges are not allowed to decide a claim until the VA has all available and relevant evidence. If you’re missing an important piece of evidence, the judge will be forced to delay the decision or send the case back to the local Regional Office to obtain the information.
When you file your claim, you’ll receive a letter from the VA explaining what the evidence should show to have your case decided in your favor. You can refer to your Statement of the Case to learn why your claim was denied by the Regional Office. Reading these documents carefully will give you insight into what sources of evidence might be the most helpful, such as medical records, statements from past employers, or buddy statements from people you served with.
To determine if evidence is helpful for a judge, consider the following:
- If you want to get a service connection for your disability, look for evidence detailing the SOURCE of your disability.
- If you want to increase your disability rating, you need evidence explaining the SEVERITY of your condition.
How an Attorney Can Help With Your BVA Appeal
You don’t need to go before a Veterans law judge alone. Working with an experienced attorney can help ensure that you have all the available evidence and that your case is presented in the best possible manner. If your claim is denied by the judge, your attorney can explain how to appeal the BVA decision to the Court of Appeals of Veterans Claims (CAVC).
At the office of Sean Kendall, Attorney-at-Law, we’ve been helping Veterans access the VA disability benefits they earned in service of their country for over 20 years. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.