The Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) has held over 13,000 virtual tele-hearings. These virtual tele-hearings allow the Board to hold hearings for Veterans safely and efficiently from wherever the Veteran chooses. Best of all, the technology allows the Board to be more efficient and more productive, increasing the number of yearly hearings it can hold.
What is a hearing?
When a Veteran disagrees with a decision that VA made on their compensation claim, the Veteran has three options when asking for another look at the decision. One of those options is called an appeal, which is sent to BVA (the Board). At the Board, the Veteran has the choice to request a hearing with a Veterans Law Judge (Judge). The Veteran, their representative and the Judge all meet to discuss the Veteran’s appeal.
The Judge is there to help, asking the Veteran questions to better understand the appeal. After the hearing, the appeal is held for about 90 days or more before the Judge reviews the appeal and issues a decision.
Requesting a hearing does take the Board longer to decide the appeal. That’s because a lot of Veterans ask for hearings (more than 85,000 are waiting). Virtual tele-hearings allow the Board to hold more hearings. More hearings enable the Board to get more Veterans a faster decision.
But, we need your help: the Board wants to hold 50,000 hearings in 2021.
2020, a record year
In 2020, the Board issued over 100,000 decisions to Veterans, a record number. The Board didn’t stop holding Veterans’ hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic, it just moved to virtual tele-hearings. This year so far, more than 13,000 Veterans have had a virtual tele-hearing and will receive decisions on their appeals.
What’s different about a virtual hearing?
Virtual tele-hearings allow the Veteran and representative to use their cellphone, computer, or tablet to have a hearing with a Veterans Law Judge. It’s just like a virtual doctor appointment. The Veteran can do this from their home, from a car, or from any location with wifi.
How does it work?
If the Veteran chooses a virtual tele-hearing, the Board will send the Veteran or person assisting the Veteran an email with connection details. This email will connect the Veteran to a hearing with the Judge. The Board has people standing by to help if there are any technical difficulties before or during the hearing. A Veteran’s family member or caregiver can also attend and assist.
Is it the same as other Board hearings?
Yes, except the Board gets to the Veteran’s place in line much quicker! Currently, the Board has approximately 25 Judges available every day to hold hearings. Once the hearing is held, the Veteran’s appeal will move forward in the decision process.
How do you get one?
Call your representative and tell them to call the Board and ask for a virtual tele-hearing, or send the Board an email requesting a virtual hearing at BVAVirtualHearing@VA.gov.
Do I have to wait for a hearing?
No, a hearing is not required for your appeal. A Judge can do a through review of your appeal and the submitted evidence and make a decision with no hearing. This is the fastest way to receive a decision from the Board.
What other kinds of hearings are available?
- Video hearings are when a Veteran travels to their closest regional office and teleconferences with the Judge in Washington, D.C. Video hearings are open depending on the status of the regional office, and we are only able to accommodate a limited amount to Veterans to make sure everyone is socially distant and safe. Good news: if you selected a video hearing, you can ask your representative to change your hearing to a virtual hearing by emailing the Board at BVAVirtualHearing@VA.gov.
- Central Office hearings are where a Veteran travels to Washington, D.C., for their in-person hearing with a Judge. Central Office hearings are open, but capacity is limited to ensure appropriate social distancing and sanitized hearing rooms. If you prefer not to wait, the Board has openings for virtual tele-hearings. You may also switch your Central Office hearing to a video hearing at the regional office or to a virtual tele-hearing.
- Travel Board hearings are where a Veteran travels to a regional office for an in-person hearing with a Judge. Travel Board hearings are currently suspended! The Board has not held a Travel Board hearing in over a year and does not have a timeline to resume this type of hearing. The Board anticipates significant delays for those Veterans wishing to have a Travel Board hearing. Don’t delay: You can switch your Travel Board hearing to a video hearing at the RO or a virtual tele-hearing.
While the Board offers different types of hearings, selecting a virtual tele-hearing is the fastest way for a Veteran to have a hearing to get a decision.
The Board wants to be able to make a decision on all appeals without delay. If you choose a virtual tele-hearing, it will not change anything about your appeal and it may get your decision decided faster.
Click here to find out how to choose a virtual tele-hearing and learn more.
Cheryl Mason is the chairman of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.