Appeal a VA Decision - Know Your Timeline

Appeal a VA Decision - Know Your Timeline

Following a VA decision, the timeline for the appeals process can vary quite a bit. The time is based on a number of things, such as the number of issues you’re filing your claim for, the complexity of your case, or which appeals system you are using.

There are two appeal systems in the VA: the older Legacy System and the new Appeals Reform system.

We have broken down the timeline for both systems according to the options that Veterans have, as well as the average times that the VA responds.

Timeline for Veterans in the Legacy System

If you are using the legacy system to file for VA disability benefits, then all veterans, including yourself, will need to use the same steps and follow the following appeal deadlines: 

After Filing Your Initial Claim

Your local Regional Office will issue a rating decision that grants, denies, or partially grants your claim.

Notice of Disagreement Timeline

You have 1 year to file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). The VA will then issue you a Statement of the Case (SOC), which will explain if they denied or only partially granted your claim.

Substantive Appeal Timeline

You will have 60 days from when the VA issues the SOC to file a VA Form 9 Substantive Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Afterward, the Board will then issue a decision granting, denying or remanding the claim for any further action.

Court of Appeals Timeline

If you are appealing a further denial, you have 120 days to appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). 

Federal Circuit Timeline

If you are denied at the CAVC, you have 60 days to appeal to the Federal Circuit. 

Unfortunately, veterans like yourself are required to follow these deadlines, but the VA does NOT have to work under any timeframes of their own. 

Average Timelines for Legacy System Claims and Appeals Process 

Back in 2017, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report called, “VA Disability Benefits: Additional Planning Would Enhance Efforts to Improve the Timeliness of Appeals Decisions”.

This report describes the VA’s backlog in working on claims and appeals within the legacy system. GAO’s report also lays out some average wait times, starting with when a veteran files an appeal to when the VA issues a decision on that appeal. 

  • 419 days is the average time between when the VA receives your NOD to when they issue a SOC. 
  • 537 days is the average time between when the VA receives an appeal to the Board to when they certify that appeal. 
  • 222 days is the average time between when the appeal is certified by the Board to when it’s placed on the Board’s docket. 
  • 270 days is the average time between when the appeal is docketed to when the Board issues a decision. 

Appeal Deadlines for Appeals Reform 

Under the newer Appeals Reform, you still have 1 year to appeal but you can choose 1 of 3 ways to make your appeal. They are:

  1. Higher-level review lane (additional rating decisions)
  2. Supplemental claim lane (additional rating decisions)
  3. Notice of disagreement lane (Board decision)

After appealing through 1 of those 3 lanes, you will then receive another decision from the VA. The higher-level review and supplemental claim lanes will get you additional rating decisions while the notice of disagreement lane will get you a Board decision. 

Higher-Level Appeal Timeline

If you get the higher-level review rating decision and it is still an unfavorable decision, you have 1 year to file either a supplemental claim or a notice of disagreement. 

Supplemental Claim Appeal Timeline

If you get the supplemental claim rating decision and it is still an unfavorable decision, you have 1 year to file an appeal in any 1 of the 3 lanes. 

Board Decision Appeal Timeline

If you get a board decision and it is still unfavorable, you can file a supplemental claim within 1 year, or appeal to the CAVC within 120 days

Federal Circuit Timeline

If you get a CAVC decision and it is still unfavorable, you have one year to file a supplemental claim, or 60 days to appeal to the Federal Circuit. 

Timelines for Appeals Reform Claims and Appeals Process 

Like we mentioned above in the section about the Legacy System; the VA does not have any deadlines they’re required to meet. However, the VA has proposed several timeframe goals for issuing decision letters:

Higher-level review and Supplemental Claim lanes have a 125-day goal for issuing decisions. 

Notice of Disagreement lane has 3 dockets you can choose from: 

  1. Direct docket: 365-day goal for issuing decisions 
  2. Evidence and Hearing dockets: longer estimated wait times 
  3. Hearing docket: 5 to 7 years

The VA intends to provide regular updates on your claims and appeals. The VA is expecting that the overall wait times will be reduced from 5 years to 3 years using the new system. Hopefully, they will begin to be able to process claims and appeals within 12 to 18 months. 

Speeding Up Your VA Disability Claims 

You may be in need of having your claims and appeals decided quicker than the average wait times. If you meet any of the conditions below, you could be qualified to request an expedited VA disability claim. 

  • Financial Hardship or Homelessness – experiencing extreme financial hardship, or if you are homeless or soon to be homeless. 
  • Advance Age – the Regional Office’s age requirement is 85 years of age or older, and the Board’s requirement is 75 years of age or older. 
  • Terminally Ill – The VA must prioritize claims for those who are terminally ill. You must submit evidence of a terminal illness in order for the VA the expedite your claim. 

There is currently no way to tell how much faster your claim will be decided given any of the above conditions. But given you have the above conditions they would be priority claims which would be handled first before non-priority claims. The only issue is that there’s more than one expedited claim, so you’ll still be waiting in line. 

Conclusion

In order to start looking at appealing a VA decision, you’ll want to know if you’re in the older legacy appeals system or the newer appeals reform system. Your first appeal must be submitted within 1 year for both systems. If you receive another unfavorable decision and you are in the legacy system, then you only have 60 days to submit your substantive appeal so be sure to stay on top of that one.

Overall, the average VA timeline is way longer than the requirements Veterans have. Always keep in mind that the VA does NOT have requirements or time limits to any of their responses. If you have a reason to get an expedited claim, be sure to take advantage of that.

When it comes to the slow appeal process with the VA – we’ve been there, done that. If you need assistance or even just someone to vent to, give us a call at Strategic Veteran. We are a veteran-ran company offering free resources to our veterans fighting for VA disabilities. We can help, give us a call now at 800-761-9004