What Is a Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) Hearing?

The Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) reviews denials of VA disability benefits.

By , Attorney · Northeastern University School of Law
Updated by Diana Chaikin, Attorney · Seattle University School of Law

The Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) is an administrative tribunal that helps determine whether veterans are entitled to benefits such as disability compensation. The BVA is different from the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), which handles the day-to-day functions of making sure veterans receive any benefits they're entitled to, but both agencies are part of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

When you first apply for disability benefits, your claim will be handled by the VBA. If you disagree with a decision of the VBA denying you disability benefits, you can ask the VBA to review your claim and make a new decision.

If you still aren't approved for benefits, you can request a BVA hearing with a Veterans Law Judge.

Types of BVA Hearings

You can choose how you'd like your BVA hearing to be conducted from one of the following three options:

  • a virtual hearing from your home
  • a videoconference hearing at a VA location near you, or
  • in-person at the Board of Veterans Appeals in Washington, D.C.

No matter which method you choose, the hearings are conducted in a very similar fashion. While they do have some formalities, BVA hearings aren't as formal as a typical courtroom.

Virtual BVA Hearings

If you choose to have a virtual hearing, you'll receive an email with the date, time, and a link for accessing the BVA tele-hearing platform. You'll need to have a secure and reliable internet connection, and your phone, tablet, or laptop must have a camera and microphone so that the judge can see and hear you.

For more information, read the VA's fact sheet on the Board of Veterans Appeals virtual tele-hearing option.

Videoconference Hearings at a VA Office

If you choose to have a videoconference hearing, you (and your representative, if you have one) will need to be physically present at your local VA office, but the BVA judge will appear virtually from Washington, D.C. You'll show up at the date, time, and location that your hearing is scheduled. After you sign in, you'll be brought into a conference room where there will be a large monitor on which you can see the BVA judge.

In-Person Hearings at the Board of Veterans Appeals

If you choose to have your hearing held in person at the BVA, you'll need to travel to Washington, D.C. at your scheduled date and time (the VA won't pay for travel expenses). Each BVA hearing slot in D.C. will have multiple veterans scheduled, and the judge sees each claimant on a first-come-first-served basis, so you should arrive as early as you can.

You'll need to bring information with you to access the BVA Central Office, and you'll need to check in at the Hearing Section of the office. You'll have the opportunity to review your claims file before the hearing, but you should ask to review the file well in advance so that you're familiar with any mistakes the VA made.

How Are BVA Hearings Conducted?

Regardless of whether your hearing is conducted virtually, as a videoconference, or in-person, you'll have an opportunity to speak with a Veterans Law Judge from the Board of Veterans Appeals. The judge will have reviewed your file before the hearing. Some judges may conduct a pre-hearing conference before the hearing starts in order to summarize the issues you're appealing and discuss the evidence that is going to be used during the hearing.

What Can You Expect During a Board Hearing?

At the start of the hearing, you will be sworn in. Your lawyer—if you have one—will make an opening statement. Following that, your lawyer will ask you questions about your disability appeal. These questions may be about the medical treatment you've received for your illness or injury, as well as any functional limitations you have as a result. If you brought any witnesses with you, your lawyer may ask them questions as well.

The BVA judge will also ask you some questions. It's helpful to think of the BVA hearing as a casual conversation between you and the judge. The judge wants to learn more about you, not trip you up with "trick questions." After the judge has finished, your lawyer will make a closing statement. From start to finish, hearings normally last around 30 minutes.

What Should You Do During the Hearing?

You should address the judge as Mr. Chairman or Madam Chair. Tell the judge why you think you qualify for VA benefits. Answer any questions the judge asks you, and share any new evidence with the judge. Don't downplay your medical symptoms, but don't exaggerate them either. The BVA hearing is your opportunity to tell your story. Above all, be respectful.

Submitting Evidence for Your BVA Hearing

You can submit evidence before, during, or after your BVA hearing. Make sure that you time your evidence submission correctly so that you have a better chance of getting your decision faster.

When Should You Submit Evidence Before Your BVA Hearing?

If you choose to submit your evidence before the hearing, be careful about when you submit it. Transferring files from your regional VA office can take several months, and if you submit new evidence before your file is transferred, the regional office will be required to evaluate that evidence—which can result in a longer delay before the BVA can review your case. Make sure to confirm that your file is with the BVA before sending in any new evidence.

Can You Submit Evidence During Your Hearing?

Once you've received notice that your hearing has been scheduled, it's generally better to bring new and material evidence to your hearing instead of mailing it in. New evidence is information that the VA hasn't seen before, and material evidence means that the judge can use it to prove or disprove your claim (such as documentation establishing service connection).

What Happens If You Submit Evidence After Your Hearing?

Judges will sometimes indicate during your hearing that they need more evidence in order to decide your claim. When this happens, you can ask the judge to hold off on issuing a decision for a limited period of time (usually 60-90 days) so that you can collect and submit the new evidence. In BVA terms, this is called asking the judge to "hold the record open." The judge won't make a decision until the record is closed.

What Happens After Your BVA Hearing?

After the hearing is over and all relevant medical evidence has been received, the judge will issue a decision. The judge may send your case back ("remand") to your VA Regional Office to correct any errors that may have been made. Or, the judge may grant your benefits to you or deny your appeal.

If your case is denied, your next step is to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) in Washington, D.C. The CAVC is a special federal court created for veterans, but isn't part of the VA. It can review any decision issued by the BVA. Because appealing before the CAVC is more formal than previous levels, with many rules governing court procedure, it's smart to retain a VA disability attorney if you haven't already.

How to Appeal to the CAVC

Only veterans or their families can appeal unfavorable decisions to the CAVC. Veterans have 120 days from the time the BVA mails the decision letter to file an appeal. If you miss the deadline but have a good reason for doing so—such as mental incapacity—the CAVC may still hear your appeal.

You are required to use the court's notice of appeal form (link opens as a PDF). You can submit the completed form in several ways:

  • Fax the appeal form to (202) 501-5848.
  • Print out the form and mail it to the Clerk of the Court, US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, 625 Indiana Avenue, NW, Suite 900, Washington, DC 20004-2950.
  • E-mail the form to [email protected] (if you have a lawyer) or [email protected] (if you don't).

You'll need to pay a $50 fee to file the appeal, but you can ask for a fee waiver in case of financial hardship. For more information, see the How to Appeal a BVA Decision section on the CAVC website.

What Evidence Can You Submit to the CAVC?

The CAVC will consider only the evidence already in the record from the BVA appeal—you can't submit any new evidence to the court. The CAVC doesn't have the authority to review new facts that the BVA didn't already look at, so you'll need to make legal, rather than factual, arguments as to why the BVA decision was wrong. (This is another reason why it's especially important to have an attorney for your appeal.)

What is the CAVC Decision Making Process?

In most cases, the CAVC reviews written briefs provided by the veteran's attorney and the VA. Very rarely will the court hold a hearing before issuing a decision. The CAVC also reviews the claims file and prior decisions made on the claim. One judge typically decides the appeal outcome, but in especially complex cases three or more judges may be involved. The court can award you benefits, deny your claim, or remand your claim to the BVA for a new decision.

What Are the Next Steps if My BVA Denial Is Upheld?

If you lose your appeal with the CAVC—meaning that the court agrees with the BVA's denial— your next option is to appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. If you lose your case there, the next step is to appeal to the Supreme Court. Keep in mind that the Supreme Court gets to choose which cases it will review (called "granting cert") and usually only picks cases that have significant national importance.

Updated December 20, 2023

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