Did You Know?
Veterans who pursue their appeals for VA benefits without professional representation are at a severe disadvantage, because VA laws and regulations are complex, convoluted, and under constant change. For example, in August 2017, Congress passed the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act, P.L. 115-55. As a result of this new law the ways in which veterans can contest denials of their claims changed as of February 2019. Rather than only having one option of appealing to the Board of Veterans' Appeals (BVA) by filing a notice of disagreement (NOD), a veteran can now also (1) request a higher-level review (HLR) with the agency; (2) file a supplemental claim (SC) to the VA Regional Office; or (3) file an appeal to BVA. It is important to receive guidance from a professional to determine which path is the best one to pursue.
NOVA actively educates its members on changes in the law. Through its seminars, webinars, and website updates, NOVA continually provides information and guidance to its members. To attain and maintain status as a sustaining member and be listed on our public-facing advocate directory, NOVA members are required to participate in regular training.
ALWAYS ensure your advocate of choice is accredited with VA to provide representation! You can check this information in VA’s accreditation database here: https://www.va.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation/index.asp.
Success Rates Improve with Professional Advocacy
Veterans have many options through accredited individuals and agencies to help assist and represent them in securing their claims and appeals. However, veterans represented by attorneys have the lowest denial rate in front of the BVA, at 14.8 percent, well below the average 20.3 percent denial rate, according to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals Annual Report Fiscal Year (FY) 2020.
Veterans with attorney representation before the BVA also have the highest rate of allowances, at 40.9 percent, compared with the average of 33.8 percent. Veterans who are represented by claims agents also have a high success rate at 33.2 percent.
What Professional Advocacy Means to You
- Your attorney or non-attorney practitioner advocates zealously on your behalf, answers your claim-related questions in a timely manner, and helps you understand (and obtain) the evidence needed to support your claim.
- Your advocate analyzes your entire VA claim history and assesses the best and most efficient path to getting you ALL the benefits you deserve – both those you know about AND those you don’t.
- Your advocate assists you in providing sworn testimony at a hearing at the local VARO level or before a BVA Veterans Law Judge (VLJ).
The Law Gives Vets and Their Attorneys Tools to Contest
The process, while complex, is sympathetic to claimants at the agency level, meaning that VA must read claims and appeals in the broadest way possible to ensure that veterans receive the most benefits to which they are entitled. Veterans with attorneys who have extensive knowledge of the claims and appeals process are the best suited to take advantage of this sympathetic environment.
When appealing to BVA, it is important to keep in mind BVA uses attorneys to consider every appeal: it makes sense for a veteran to be on equal footing when their appeal reaches this important level of review.
The United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) and the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit are courts of national jurisdiction that hear veterans’ appeals related to their VA disability claims. They issue decisions that provide advocates with tools to contest and argue veterans’ appeals. At this phase, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs has attorneys who argue VA’s position regarding why a decision was made to deny veterans. Therefore, it is important to be represented by an attorney who understands the process and the law.