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A claim must be in writing. A claim may be submitted at any one of 58 Regional Offices of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Every state in the United States has at least one Regional Office. There are also Regional Offices in Puerto Rico and the Philippines. There is also an office in Washington, D.C. for those individuals who live outside of the United States.
Once a claim has been submitted to a Regional Office, the Regional Office is required to render a decision. The decision should only be made after a fully and sympathetically developed consideration of the evidence. The veteran will receive a written notice of the decision of the Regional Office. This notification of action will only inform the veteran that the claim has been granted or denied.
Once a veteran has perfected an appeal, the claims folder is transferred to the Board of Veterans' Appeals in Washington, D.C. The BVA is the final administrative process before going to Court. The Board may take anyone of four different actions in a veteran's appeal. The Board may affirm the decision of the Regional Office. This would be an adverse decision to the veteran and would allow the veteran to appeal to the Court. The Board may reverse a decision of the Regional Office and grant the benefits sought by the veteran. In this circumstance, the decision would be favorable and there would be no basis for an appeal to Court. The third option is for the Board to remand the case for further development to the Agency of Original Jurisdiction, the Regional Office. A remand is not an adverse decision. A remand merely continues the administrative appeal by returning a case to the Agency for further proceedings.
Once the Regional Office receives a remand, the Regional Office is required to complete the instructions or directions for further development provided by the Board. The length of time this process takes is dependent on the nature of the remand instructions. In the event that the Regional Office confirms the prior denial, the Regional Office will issue a Supplemental Statement of the Case. Following the receipt of a Supplemental Statement of the Case, the veteran's claims folder should be returned to the Board to complete appellate review. Upon return to the Board, the Board still has all four options available as though this was an original appeal.
The final option for the Board is what is called a referral. A case is referred back to the Agency when the Board feels that an issue or a claim which should have been developed was not, and the Board directs the Regional Office to decide that issue and give the veteran notice of that decision. In this circumstance, the veteran is required to file a Notice of Disagreement with such ratings action. Another circumstance in which a referral would be appropriate is when the Board failed to include in the Statement of Case a claim or issue raised by the veteran in the Notice of Disagreement. In such a situation, a referral back to the Agency of Original Jurisdiction would be issued directing the Regional Office to issue a Statement of the Case on the omitted claim or issue.
VA regulations provide that a veteran at anytime may ask or seek Reconsideration by the Board of Veterans' Appeals of any prior adverse decision. In the context of a current decision, if the veteran files a Motion for Reconsideration within 120 days of the adverse decision, then the time for filing a Notice of Appeal to Court has been tolled. Tolled means it is stopped or suspended. The time for filing a Notice of Appeal when a Motion for Reconsideration has been filed within 120 days of an adverse Board decision suspends the time for filing a Notice of Appeal in Court until the Board has acted on the Motion for Reconsideration. Upon receipt of the decision on the Motion for Reconsideration, the date file-stamped on the Board's letter denying the Motion restarts the 120 day time period. This means a veteran has 120 days after a decision denying a Motion for Reconsideration to file an appeal with the Court.
Although there is no time limit for filing a Motion for Reconsideration, any Motion for Reconsideration filed after 120 days, while it will be accepted and decided by the Board, DOES NOT toll the time for filing a Notice of Appeal. This is a common mistake and misunderstanding which many pro se veterans make. The BVA's Notice of Appellate Rights is somewhat confusing and misleading in this regard. A veteran should consult with a competent veterans law practitioner after receiving any decision from the Board of Veterans' Appeals.