In this edition of Chats with the Chief, VHA Chief of Staff Jon Jensen sits down with Cheryl L. Mason, the first woman chair of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. She talks about recent and coming improvements to the board and what brought her to work with Veterans.

About the board

Founded 88 years ago, the board provides fair settlement of Veterans’ appeals at no cost to the Veteran. The board focuses on holding hearings and deciding appeals. The processes, people and technologies put in place have allowed the board to decide over 100,000 appeals during each of the last three years.

This year, the board has held over 22,000 hearings, more than have ever been held in the history of the board.

Mason, appointed in late 2017, and her team of more than 100 judges, 900 attorneys and 200 administrative and operational staff are working hard to continue delivering timely and accurate decisions to Veterans.

In 2019 the board implemented the Appeals Modernization Act, which allows Veterans more choice, clarity, and control over their appeals. Recently, the White House also approved 20 new judges to join the board, increasing the total number by 20%. Mason is recruiting more judges this fall to ensure more Veterans get their requested hearings and receive their appeals decisions.

She also looks forward to continuing to innovate and implement new technologies. This includes artificial intelligence to serve Veterans better and more quickly.

Giving back to those who supported her

Mason’s passion for serving Veterans is rooted in her childhood. When she was just 4 years old, she lost her father, a Veteran, to suicide after a battle with adult-onset schizophrenia. A little more than a decade later, she lost her older brother to suicide.

Growing up in a small town where there was stigma surrounding the idea of mental health, Mason found that the Veteran community was the only group to embrace her family. Today, she uses her experience to give back to Veterans and serves as a passionate advocate for mental health.

She tells her story to illustrate how important it is to reach out and check in with people and talk about mental health and suicide.

Hiring military spouses

One of Mason’s priorities is hiring military spouses for the board, the VA and beyond.  A military spouse herself, she understands all too well the challenges they face when looking for employment.

Even before the pandemic, Mason used her leadership role to make the board more telework friendly. This allowed military spouses to apply for jobs and work regardless of where their spouse serves.

Mason understands that military spouses bring talents and insights that are valuable to the board.

“We owe it to military members and military families to support our military spouses,” she said.


To view previous Chats with the Chief blogs, visit https://news.va.gov/?s=chats+with+the+chief.

By VAntage Point Contributor

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Published on Sep. 29, 2021

Estimated reading time is 2.4 min.

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35 Comments

  1. Liz October 4, 2021 at 3:52 am

    As a Vietnam Female Veteran, I have been so disappointed over the last 2 decades with ANY and ALL Administrations -Veterans. Not a single year has gone by that VA has made my PTSD flare due to incompetence at every level. Most recently, my family has applied for Caregiver Program. After 5 months of finger pointing, my spouse was called and informed that “my” application was denied because of arthritis and leg amputation did not qualify for Caregiver. He was told I should check my Healthevet Records and call. Not only do I NOT have any amputations, I called and left approximately 4-5 voice messages on the Supervisors line within prior month to this message to my spouse. When I finally was able to reach an MSE, he said he could see the person who had called my husband and would transfer me to her….he did not place me on hold and I could hear the whole encounter between them. She did not want to speak to me, but he refused to send me to her VM (again). When she accepted my call, I was in tears.
    She had no empathy, she would not acknowledge that she had the wrong patient chart in front of her! She only kept saying, I had to Appeal and contact a Patient Advocate. When I requested a name or phone contact, she told me, “call the main number and wait for Operator to transfer me.”
    Finally a Patient experience (Advocate?) was contacted and again, the slippery slope of this whole CareGiver experience is the tipping point for me.
    No one cares, no one wants to explain the whole “appeal process.” All I get is the run around, call your Primary Care Provider, call you Mental Health Care Team, call your Specialists. They all say the same thing, “I can’t help you.” But….before hanging up, can you just let us know, are you suicidal or homicidal?”
    My feelings….The VA is homicidal. Killing us Veterans with no accountability.

    • Abraham October 12, 2021 at 9:13 am

      I am so sorry to hear about your experience you are having with your claim. I work for a VSO in Texas and I will be more than happy to explain the process for you.

  2. Andrew Allen October 2, 2021 at 1:24 am

    The bipap has a class action lawsuit. Look up Chisholm Chisholm Kirkpatrick on YouTube. They are accredited attorneys helping vets with this.

  3. Lillie October 1, 2021 at 3:31 pm

    My 2014 timely Appeal was thrown out because I didn’t sign up for the new VA Modernization Appeals Act, and the VA never informed me that it was mandatory to sign up for the new system otherwise my appeal would be thrown out due to untimeliness. This is extremely unfair

  4. Charles G. October 1, 2021 at 2:52 pm

    The replies here are disheartening. And not just because of their content, but because it’s been the same song and dance since I sat on my Uncle’s lap and heard his stories about Agent Orange. Despicable. I have long argued that the VA will not improve until we remove it from the politically charged executive branch and find a new home under Article I. Codify the VA under federal Law and let us adjudicate our claims using the full force of Law. We served as political pawns. We should not continue to be political pawns for whatever 4-year flavor sits in the whitehouse.

  5. Oliver October 1, 2021 at 8:37 am

    It’s still flawed and minimal approvements. The Board of Veteran Appeals granted me a disability close to 100% and the desicion review officer broke its own statutes and laws that were written and gave me a 0% rating. The VA over ruled a judges final desicion and broke its own laws. We sent in a appeal back to the BVA. Its been close to 10 years and still waiting.

  6. Kevin J Clark October 1, 2021 at 8:13 am

    On August 9th 2021 I had a incident with the physical therapist department at the VA clinic in Jacksonville Florida. I fell during physical therapy session. I was given no medical assistance. I was sent home directly after the fall. No concern for a 63 year old veteran. Patient advocate did absolutely nothing. I now have several medical issues. Someone please help. This is totally unprofessional.

  7. Kenneth Tennant September 30, 2021 at 11:24 pm

    “YOU WILL DIE before we award your claim.”- VARO DesMoines, Iowa. I am seeking an Earlier Effective date, consistent with date of onset (1987) or date of diagnoses (1989), vs the arbitrary and capricious date they picked 1994). I am also seeking Permanent and Total rating vs the IU they went with because they didn’t want to rate the other conditions of record (Skin Conditions, Allergies, tinitus, etc).
    The VARO DesMoines refuses to even allow me or the DAV to file unless I have “New and Relevant evidence.”
    The VA knows if I die my wife will be without.

  8. Christina Danielle Thundathil September 30, 2021 at 9:28 pm

    In this case she needs to bed fired and replaced with a REAL female that can actually accomplish something. I am now beginning to think she got that job only because she is a female.

    Her staff is INCOMPETENT, CAN’T READ and is making simple mistakes that cost time. They said have INTERSTITIAL LUNG DISEASE which in my vase case is Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and Constrictive Bronchiolitis is NOT a fatal illness.

    My latest CT scan showed 20% shrinkage in lung volume. I follow up with full PFT on Tuesday which I will learn my fate if I am proceeding to be put on a transplant list or not. But they said oh you are just fine. Lady, you are a mistake. You don’t represent me or the women who served or serving in the military at this time. You don don’t have the character, much less the strength to endure what we do. I could still mop your face with the floor. Good day.

    • Charles October 1, 2021 at 1:24 pm

      Why bother with appeals, the insensitive and sinical Doctors, examiners aka automobile adjusters who treat you like one was involved in a car accident, and they are there to save the insurance company money. One can see how high the number of appeals is. The car adjusters take a pride in creating high digits. I wonder if they really read the record’s, the VA and private evidence is there. So, why go to another disappointing ordeal, if one knows what the results will be. In appeals, just like with the car adjusters encounter, the numbers are against the claimant.

      • Charles G. October 1, 2021 at 2:41 pm

        Awesome, and highly accurate, analogy, Charles! Kudos, sir.

  9. C.M. Ranson September 30, 2021 at 8:59 pm

    My case has gone before the board a few times. The VA personnel representing the agency have lied, demanded that the two mental health findings be changed and made sure my record showed an error in judgement. My disability was cancelled even though the MH findings were depression and PTSD. The board, to my knowledge, is not aware of their actions.

    This activity has been going on for several years.
    I think it’s time to priVAtize the Veteran’s Administration. It is broken from the top down. Liars, cheaters and thieves are everywhere. Poor leadership, bonuses given out to encourage this behavior.

    priVAtize now!!

  10. John Sherrick September 30, 2021 at 8:40 pm

    Veterans,
    As an exVSR and veteran of 20 yrs of service I understand your pain. It takes approximately a year for a VSR to become trained enough to be educated about the system. The one key element I learned about a successful rating is to document your illness/injury during service or within one year of ETS.
    The second key element is finding a doctor that is familiar with the rating process and 38CFR part 4.
    The VA has not always received the funds needed to hire. They are playing catch-up and have done so for years.
    Conversely, I have seen Vets with a sixteen volume C-file with three awards at 70% performing functions that is impossible due to their claimed disability.
    This takes resources away from those that are truly needy.

  11. Ronnie September 30, 2021 at 6:42 pm

    Why do the judges hear your appeal and tell you your presentation was the best they have ever seen to prove the VA made a mistake in their decision and the facts to prove their decision should have been in your favor yet 5 months after your hearing you have heard nothing. After 5 months they have forgotten what went on in the hearing and must refresh their memory. A decision in just a few days on a case like this would seem to be in order.

  12. Linda Towe September 30, 2021 at 6:13 pm

    My husband had a few strokes and is currently in the nursing home from hell. I have been trying to get him into a VA facility in or close to Baltimore,City, Maryland. Can someone share with if VA has a section that can assist with this issue. THANKS!

    THANKS!

  13. Linda Towe September 30, 2021 at 6:07 pm

    I would like to get more information on spouses on the Board or other opportunities that spouses may have to be of assistance to veterans who are in nursing homes or other related facilities. Are there advocates for the those who were in service but now they and their spouses and families need guidance in learning how they can make sure that their spouses are getting what they need. I have been dealing with this issue for the past three years and I have not been able to find the department or resources to help me. Now more than ever I want to make sure that other spouses and family members have access to the proper sources for their families and their spouses. Linda THANKS!

  14. Victor Lee Paillet September 30, 2021 at 6:01 pm

    We will she if she is for veterans

  15. William J Donnelly Jr September 30, 2021 at 3:36 pm

    I am a Vietnam Vet 73y/o and the VA is trying to reduce my heart disability from 60 to 30 . I am appealing it . I can not believe they go after an old vet , it must be very rewarding !! I thought they had a back log on claims ! I went to Waco VA in April 2021 to see a primary care doctor . I had lab work done , no EKG or CxR . I told Dr Grandjean that I had palpations , dizziness , light headed and very fatigued since Nov. 2020 . I asked him for a cardiology consult ! He refused and said my heart was fine and I was just depressed . I told him with covid , who is not depressed ! He just smiled and said Good-by ! I am a retired ICU nurse, I know what good exam is , he listens to my heart and lungs for 10 seconds . That was it! I am scheduled to see another doctor in Oct. I went to see Civilian cardiologist and got good exams they prove I have several lifestyle changing problem that they are treating . Thank you VA !!

  16. Vince E Turner September 30, 2021 at 10:17 am

    I’m on an expedited case load concerning the effective date but yet it’s been 7 years and no decision and the the illegal decision I did get from the board is in direct conflict with the court of appeals

  17. Edward Johnson September 30, 2021 at 8:50 am

    Whoopie do. We are still Grossly under served. I have to wait 6 weeks to get blood drawn. Thats unacceptable. Spousrs can wait. They have needs However this failing country Must step up and offer open availability to any and all medical facilities without regard to level of care or cost. The Vetetans Administration is is disgraceful and run from yet another goverment Ivory Tower of mismanagement.

  18. Wesley Crawford September 30, 2021 at 2:08 am

    Fair Board hearing
    Burying my dead father
    auto correct spell check changed several words after sending!

  19. Robert M Walczyk September 30, 2021 at 2:08 am

    What a joke. The board continues to send vets to exams over and over. The system is beyond broke.

  20. Wesley Crawford September 30, 2021 at 2:05 am

    Pure BS! Desert Storm Navy Veteran with rare enzyme condition that does not like chemical weapons OR VACCINES! I have enough evidence that jury would find for me. Yet the VA scuttled my hair Board hearing back 2013 because I was two weeks late from biting my dead father, also veteran. The claim veterans w Gulf War illness have all been service connected because they were vulnerable to exposures it is lie and propaganda! Not that anyone cares.

  21. Mr james September 30, 2021 at 12:49 am

    He ain’t trying to help.

    Explain why the board doesn’t have a contact number anymore.

    Why now the 1800 veterans affairs handle call for the board. And have va has to send a irs to get a response from the board.

    The board doesn’t even respond to veterans irs or the va. 1800.

    There use to be a osbudman contact number to address veterans issues with appeals at the board.

    Explain why now both the droc DC which handle board remands and the board don’t have numbers to address veterans issues.

    With appeals.

    And I ain’t take the covid thing because ppl are still answering phones at the va 1800 at home.

    I had to call the white house hot line to get anyone to respond.

    Guy tell me they are getting a lot of call about this and the private company doing exam.

    Now a veteran has to do a freedom of information just to get a copy of the comp exam.

    Doesn’t seem to me they are trying to make things before.

    The veterans health care system has ever type of doctor but now they give a billion dollars contract to qtc.

    Which is own by who Lockheed Martin.

    I don’t no one veteran happy with this.

    Veterans are having comp exam in hotel room. X ray in parking lot.

    There cancel my exam the day before after a month wait.

    I have never wait a month for a comp exam at va hospital never had a comp exam cancel

    • John Streety October 1, 2021 at 4:44 am

      My case been circle the system now at back at t he BVA my disability case started in 2007 it now 2021,14 years and I volunteer during the Vietnam War when the DRAFT was in effect.The VA need to be Overhaul and Dump the system you have.I told my family if a decision come after I pass that’s the VA staregy deny,deny,appeal,appeal until you pass away.I saw men go to their death who did not want to be there,. THE QUESTION NOW IS WAS IT WORTH IT ALL THE DYING,WHEN THE LIVING DO NOT GIVE A DA.. ABOUT NOBODY BUT THEIR OWN,AND THEIR MONEY,AND MATERIALISTIC THINGS.

  22. warren kirk September 30, 2021 at 12:33 am

    I would like to know when you’re VSO, screws up doesn’t know his job doesn’t get the information he was told to get. Which screwed up the veterans life!!!! How come nothing’s ever done to that VA person that did all the damage to the veteran, because he didn’t know his job didn’t do his job!!!!!!!!!!?????????? But if a veteran does something wrong!!! They get chastised they get thrown to the curb and they get handcuffed!!!!!! Answer that question for me how come nothing’s done to the people that do the damage from the VA to the veterans!!!! Why is the veterans always having to do the veterans administration or the employees jobs for them!!!!!!!!!!! No one can answer these questions even your patient advocate said!! Quote!!!!!!(we really can’t go against the doctors) unquote!!!!!!!¡!. . Answer that one for me!!! See you can’t do it y’all don’t do a thing to your personnel when they screw a veterans life up!!!!!!!! All y’all do is talk talk put the veteran down!!!!! I’m disgusted with my healthcare on the way I’m treated!!!!!! You have to give respect before you get respect!!!!!!! And the veteran administration has no respect for the veterans!!!!!!!!

  23. warren kirk September 30, 2021 at 12:15 am

    Again with the math come on now. And if you’re doing so much change to the board of appeal how come your judge had nothing in front of her when my case came up, 1st of September 2021. she had nothing in front of her about me because the vso their Derek Randall,didn’t know his damn job!!!!!!! Explain that to me!!!!! Didn’t have any of my records didn’t have nothing about my PTSD!!!!! Thought I was in the damn Navy I was air traffic controller in the Air Force I was the elite!!!!!!! So now I’m still waiting on the judge make a decision I sent the paperwork that she needed myself!!!!!! I faxed it the 29th of September 2021 I have confirmation that she’s received it!!!!! Now do I have to wait another 10 years!!!!!!!!!!!! Military told me documentation, documentation, documentation!!!!!!! I have all the documentation I have all the proof it’s right there in black and white and my records and I’m still waiting!!!!!!!! But you’re doing great changes to the VA!!!!!! I need somebody to explain this to me cuz I’m confused!!!! How can you have all the documentation and being Dan limbo!!!! Somebody please answer my question!!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. warren kirk September 29, 2021 at 11:19 pm

    What the hell’s with the math!!!! What you think we’re morons now!!!!! Y’all make yourself look good but you ain’t that damn thing for the veterans! You kicking my hospital it’s all over the news!! But you tell the news you’re doing things you can’t even fix your goddamn phone system!!! And it’s been messed up for God damn 10 years!!! Your computer system with your travel pay! It locked up my goddamn computer I had to pay for it myself to unlock the damn thing!!! All I hear from your people is a God damn excuse all way be working on it we know the problem well why didn’t the hell you tell people about it before they God damn logged on to it!!!!!!! But it’s all the goddamn veterans fault;!!!!!; Well I got documentation at the ass and this judge had to stop everything because of my BSO didn’t do his God damn job cut this veterans God damn throat!!!! I told that vso too much prior to my God damn appointment that my records show I was tested PTSD positive I was diagnosed this Mr Kirk I’ll get your records that mother f***** didn’t do a goddamn thing!!!!!I had to take it upon myself to send my God damn information because that vs didn’t know his God damn job I had to do it for him now I’ve done sent the papers to the judge saying that I was bipolar diagnosed for a goddamn veteran doctor and I have PTSD that also was God damn diagnosed by one of your God damn doctors but nobody had my God damn records up there!!!!!!!!! But I’m supposed to be calm and everything I’ve been waiting 10 God damn years for this this is my God damn life!!!!!!! Which I got them deserve!!!!! Why the hell do I have to keep fighting for it!!!!!!!!!!!;;;

  25. warren kirk September 29, 2021 at 11:14 pm

    Yeah you’re doing such a great job how come my video conference was like a goddamn circus!!!!! My BSO cut my throat couldn’t do his damn job didn’t have my damn records didn’t know what branch of service I was in!!!! He was no help at all!!!! The judge had nothing in front of me about the appeal that we were going for and I’ve been waiting 10 God damn years!!!!!!!; Talk talk you haven’t improved the VA system in 30 God damn years since I’ve been with y’all!!!!!!!!! My records read like a goddamn horror story!!! Of what your personnel have put me through and how many God damn hamster wheels I had to f****** run!!!!!!! You can contact me you can call me you can email me I’ll get my God damn records and prove to you you all ain’t done a God damn thing for me it’s that run me the f*** around!!!!!!!!

  26. Patricia Robert September 29, 2021 at 9:26 pm

    Oh yes I agree with this because military spouse do understand but I feel there shall be a difference department for widow who lost their spouse the mild then like a solider when they trying to apply and understand there benefits at the same time

  27. Lyle E Myers September 29, 2021 at 8:47 pm

    I been in front of the bva judge since January of 2020 and jumped to the front of line in April of 2021 and what is the chance I could still hear something this year.

  28. RONALD Brown September 29, 2021 at 8:02 pm

    I think it’s wonderful to have someone who understands the needs of veteran.

  29. Melinda September 29, 2021 at 5:56 pm

    Do these “improvements” mean a veteran like me can go back to my separation and request for a disability discharge and now get 100% disability paid to me retroactively? Or are you wiping the butts of today’s afghan and iraq veterans?

  30. Howard ‘Red’ Hoffman September 29, 2021 at 4:40 pm

    Since January of this year, I have noticed a steady and disappointing trend from my VA here in Orlando. I have appealed to the Patient Advocate about problems relating to the O2/BiPAP support and all they did was pass it along to my PCP who felt that she was to blame for the incident. I even sent my concerns to the VA OIG who advised me to take it up with my medical team. Bottom line, I think the VA is losing their ability to care.. not the VA as a whole, but enough people within the VA to have a negative and depressing impact on my life. The urology clinic comes to mind as well as the mental health clinic.

    On the issue of filing an appeal, I did earlier this year and I received a letter on 25 SEP 2021 stating I had 30 days to provide evidence of my health problems and their connection to my dates of service. The date of that letter was 27 AUG 2021. I don’t know what kind of games are being played, but the feeling I get is veterans are being neglected.

    I would send my concerns to my Congresswoman (Stephenie Murphy) but I don’t feel she will be helpful…like the VA OIG.

  31. GEORGE DESLAURIER September 29, 2021 at 11:43 am

    I realize with the virus issues and the workload the VA has to face that it’s difficult to review all the claims and appeals within a shorter period is almost impossible, yet it would be great to see what progress is being made. I have an appeal submitted in 2011 that was updated June 2, 2021 and still waiting for a law judge to review. My appeal was remanded and have not heard a word or received the letter that was to be sent within 90 days. I’m supposedly advanced on the docket. Can anyone help. THANK YOU

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