The prospect of a hearing before a Veteran Law Judge (“VLJ”) may seem intimidating even for the most experienced, veterans because it is an unfamiliar process.
Having a better understanding of what a VA appeal hearing looks like can help you make a better decision on whether you want to request one. The original claims process for VA Disability Benefits is all done on paper. However, even the most well-written explanation of your condition, symptoms, and situation may not be as persuasive as a live hearing.
Don’t worry about having to travel to Washington, DC or some other distant location, like your local VA regional office to attend a hearing.
You can ask for a virtual tele-hearing which you can attend from home, and your VA appeals attorney can also attend from their office.
What happens at a Board Hearing?
At the beginning of the hearing you will be asked to take an oath or affirmation that you will tell the truth. This is the same process as would be used in a court of law.
As with every other step in the VA Disability Claims process, your representations to the VA are subject to penalties of perjury and hearings are no different.
After being sworn in, you, or your representative, will explain to the judge the issues you are raising on appeal, the reasons why you believe the prior decision was wrong. Sometimes the reasons have to do with evidence supporting your claim, and sometimes the issues are matters of law. You will probably be asked to provide your testimony about these claims with the guidance/questions of your representative.
This process is relatively informal, and the judge may ask questions to better understand the situation and appeal issues.
The goal at the hearing is to adequately explain why you think you qualify for VA disability benefits, or qualify for an increased rating and increased benefits beyond what has previously been decided.
Answer the judge’s questions to the best of your knowledge, remembering that the more they know and understand, the more accurate the final ruling is likely to be. Additional evidence can be added at this time or even within 90 days thereafter, if appropriate.
Hearings usually take a hour or less. The judge will not give his or her decision at the hearing, but instead will “take the matter under advisement” which means that they will consider what was said at the hearing, the claims file, and any added evidence within the next 90 days (if requested), and then give a decision.
After the hearing
Generally, the veterans law judge will wait a least 90 days after the hearing to provide their decision.
This allows time for submission of any additional evidence if the veteran chooses to do so. Although you and your representative will try to be as prepared as possible before the hearing, sometimes questions the judge asks will give rise to a need to provide additional information before a decision is made.
Be sure to have a thorough evaluation of this before the 90-day deadline is up.
At some point after the 90-day post-hearing deadline has passed, a written appeal decision will be mailed to the veteran and their representative.