A claim for Veterans disability benefits can have three general stages:
- Application and Initial Decision by the VA Regional Office
- Administrative Appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA hearing)
- Judicial Review by the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC)
If you are unhappy with the results of your Board of Veterans Appeals hearing, the final step in appealing a denial of VA disability benefits is to appeal to the CAVC—which is the only court with jurisdiction over decisions made by the BVA.
Understanding the role of the CAVC can help you better prepare for this stage of the process.
About the CAVC
Created in 1988, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) provides judicial review of decisions made by the Board of Veterans Appeals. It consists of seven judges, each of whom serves for a 15-year term. There are no jury trials, so each case is either decided by a single judge or panel of judges.
The CAVC reviews the existing record only. There is no oral testimony and no new evidence is allowed. Judges are only concerned whether the BVA applied the law correctly.
One aspect of the CAVC that Veterans often find surprising is that there is no CAVC courtroom. Offices are located in Washington, DC, but all case communication is handled by telephone or electronically.
In addition to hearing disability benefits appeals, the CAVC can also hear cases involving survivors’ benefits, education benefits, and reimbursement for unauthorized medical expenses. The decisions it makes affect not only your individual case but the cases of all other Veterans with similar issues.
Requesting CAVC Review
If you wish to have the CAVC review your case, you need to file a written Notice of Appeal within 120 days after the BVA mailed its decision. If you miss the deadline, you usually lose your right to appeal. The CAVC rarely grants extensions or exemptions to Veterans.
When the CAVC receives notice of your intent to appeal, you’ll be issued a Notice of Docketing that provides a case number and your official status. You’ll also be asked to submit a legal brief that outlines the issues of the case and your argument. Briefs for a CAVC review can easily exceed 20 pages, depending on the specifics of the case. There are detailed rules that must be filed regarding issues such as footnote style, page numbering, and font size. Briefs can be rejected for noncompliance, so attention to detail is essential.
While you are not legally required to have an attorney for a CAVC appeal, it is strongly recommended. Even though the appeals process for disability benefits is considered non-adversarial, the VA will have an attorney who is tasked with defending its position on your case. The VA attorney represents the government’s interests—not yours.
Your CAVC appeal can be decided in one of the following ways.
- Remand. The CAVC decides the BVA needs to do something else to further develop the case before it can review the file and made a decision.
- Dismiss. In limited decisions, the appeal may be dismissed outright.
- Adjudicate. The Court makes a formal decision to either grant or deny benefits.
The most likely outcome is that the CAVC remands the case back to the BVA. This occurs in 75 to 80 percent of all CAVC appeals.
If your benefits are denied by the CAVC, only the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals or legislative changes can override the decision. However, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals can—and often does—decline the opportunity to review cases involving Veterans disability benefits.
How We Can Help
VA disability law can be complex when you reach the CAVC appeals stage, which is why you need an experienced Veterans benefits attorney to help you prepare your case to get the BVA decision overturned. 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. Fill out the contact form on this page or call our office today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.