U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC): Rules, Timeline, and Process
Category: Veterans Disability Law
Article by Tuley Law staff
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is responsible for deciding how much compensation a disabled veteran receives for their service-connected condition. If a veteran disagrees with the decision made by their VA regional office, they can file an appeal. When a veteran submits a disability claim appeal, it will typically be looked at by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). Depending on how the BVA decides, the veteran may file to have the BVA decision reviewed by the CAVC.
What Is the CAVC?
The CAVC is the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. This is an Article 1 Federal Court located in Washington D.C. that has jurisdiction over any rulings decided by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Established in 1988, the CAVC reviews appeals made by claimants and makes decisions based on conferences, case files, and written arguments from both parties. It’s important to note that the CAVC is NOT a part of VA; the CAVC IS part of the judiciary.
What Does the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims Do?
Essentially, if the BVA denies a veteran’s claim, it must then be filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. This can be a lengthy and complicated process, especially for individuals who do not have some form of legal counsel. The CAVC approves or reverses decisions made by the BVA. The CAVC is NOT the BVA, one is a Federal Court and the other is a part of VA.
Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims: Number of Judges
One of the main differences between the CAVC and Article 3 Courts is that the CAVC has term limits for its judges. For the CAVC, judges are appointed by the current U.S. President and approved by the Senate for either 13- or 15-year periods. The CAVC normally has seven judges on it, but there is a temporary expansion until 2026 that increases that number to nine.
These judges are responsible for ruling on cases of disability compensation, survivor benefits, educational assistance, and pension benefits. Cases may be decided upon by one singular judge or by a panel of multiple judges.
Unlike all VA entities, the CAVC is adversarial and there is no duty to assist. This means the CAVC Veterans Court reviews only the information provided in the case and does not carry out any additional steps to gather evidence for the veteran.
The Court has a variety of rules and procedures that govern the ruling process. These include the necessary documents that must be filled out, deadlines to keep the process on track and general regulations for how proceedings must be carried out. You can find a more complete list of the CAVC Rules on their website.
Why Would a Veteran Submit a Claim to the CAVC?
A veteran would only submit a claim to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims if they received an unfavorable decision from the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. This means that the initial claim decision was unsatisfactory to the veteran, so they submitted an appeal to the BVA. Then the BVA decision was also unsatisfactory.
The CAVC carries out the highest level of decision review when it comes to disability compensation claims. Therefore, veterans would only file to the CAVC if they had a good reason to believe that their case had been incorrectly decided upon.
What Is the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims Process?
While the CAVC process can be difficult and arduous, it can also be resolved at any point in time. An attorney can work with VA to negotiate a beneficial ruling if the Board makes any legal errors. This process is usually done through filing a “Joint Motion for Remand.”
Below is a summary of the steps involved in the CAVC veterans court process:
- Submitting a claim to the CAVC involves filing a Notice of Appeal (NOA) within 120 days of the BVA decision you are contesting. The NOA must be received by the Clerk of the Court IN WRITING no later than 120 days after an unfavorable BVA ruling. An NOA informs the Court that the Claimant/Appellant is bringing legal action against VA.
- After the CAVC is notified of your appeal, the Court Clerk will respond with a Notice of Docketing that contains the Court’s case number and the next steps each party must take. This case number will not be the same as the VA claim file number. The Notice of Docketing requires the Appellant to submit a “Record Before the Agency” (RBA) within 60 days. The RBA must contain all materials in the claims file up to the date of the initial BVA decision, a list of any records which cannot be duplicated, and any material before the Board and the Secretary that is relevant to the issues in the decision on appeal. The RBA must be completed and certified by the VA S
- The Appellant is allowed to dispute the RBA by filing a motion within 14 days if there are documents missing that are necessary to the appeal. This DOES NOT mean the court will accept new evidence, only that you might have more time to include more information you couldn’t get access to in the previous window.
- After both parties have agreed upon the information included in the RBA, the Appellant will be required by the Clerk to file a brief within 60 days. The brief may not exceed 30 pages and should use the RBA as a reference instead of making new copies of documents.
- After the Appellant’s brief, the VA Secretary must also file a brief within 60 days. The Appellant may file a brief no longer than 15 pages to reply to the Secretary’s brief.
- Within 14 days after the reply brief is turned in or was due, the Secretary must file a Record of Proceedings (ROP) and serve the Appellant. This is a collection of materials from the RBA required to decide the appeal. Only documents that relate to the BVA decision being appealed can be included in the ROP. If the Appellant notices missing documents from the ROP which are pertinent to the appeal, they can file a motion to dispute it within 14 days.
- After the ROP is settled, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims will release a decision. CAVC decisions are typically made by a single judge. However, if the case involves a significant legal question that may be applied to more than one veteran or presents a legal question that has not been previously considered by the Court, a panel of three Judges may make the decision. In some situations, the en banc court will be called upon for the case, meaning all nine Judges will participate in the ruling.
- The CAVC decisions can agree with the Board decision in whole or in part, upholding the entire decision or just specific aspects of it. The Court may also overturn, cancel, or remand the Board decision in whole or in part. If your decision is remanded by the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, it returns to the VA regional office or the BVA for further action. The last option the CAVC holds is to dismiss the case if the Appellant doesn’t follow the CAVC rules, the Appellant withdraws their appeal, or the Court doesn’t have jurisdiction to consider the appeal. If the case is dismissed, the Board’s decision remains in effect. The Appellant will have 21 days to file a motion for reconsideration, or 51 days if they are outside of the U.S. and U.S. territories at the time of the appeal.
- If no reconsideration motion is filed, the Court will enter judgment on its docket 21 days after its decision. If the Appellant still disagrees with the decision, they may file to the Federal Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals through the CAVC within 60 of the judgment. The CAVC will send the Notice of Appeal and filing fee to the Federal Circuit and that case will stay pending the Federal Circuit decision.
This list does not include the procedures for Rule 33 Conferences. This occurs when the Court orders the Appellant or their representative to a staff conference with the VA’s attorney. This is an attempt to more quickly resolve issues and potentially reach an agreement before the Court and the Appellant expend too much time on the decision.
Contact Tuley Law Office for Legal Advice on Your CAVC Case
To streamline the appeal process, many veterans hire a VA disability attorney. The rules and regulations of the CAVC can be difficult and confusing; having a lawyer who knows the language can make things significantly easier. This will minimize the stress and time it takes to get a claim turned in. After everything has been submitted, the CAVC will typically come to a decision within eight to 10 months.
The VA disability lawyers at Tuley Law Office have the knowledge and experience to answer questions you may have about the CAVC appeal process. Appointing a representative to consult with the Court and the Board can increase your chances of getting a more favorable decision. Contact us today.
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