In my last article about remands, we looked at what the Board of Veterans Appeals is likely to do when it determines that the Regional Office did not apply the proper methodology in deciding a claim. The Regional Office’s error in deciding a claim could take many forms but usually involves not considering or gathering material evidence or not applying a particular legal principle correctly.
This article will look at what options veterans have once they receive a remand from the Board of Veterans Appeals back to the Regional Office.
Understanding the Remand Decision
Remember that a remand is an order on an appeal sending the claim back to the agency of original jurisdiction (“AOJ”). The remand sets forth what was done wrong and how the AOJ should go about deciding it this time.
These remand decisions are often confusing. I find many veterans were expecting a letter resembling a rating decision with a numerical rating of their percentage of disability. When they get a BVA order that does not assign a rating, they assume they were given a 0% rating or that the BVA decided the disability was not service-connected.The good news is that is not what a remand means. The bad news is that, while not a loss, a remand does mean additional time before a final decision. Upon learning the long-awaited decision from the BVA means additional months or even years until benefits will begin, some veterans want to appeal the BVA’s remand to avoid further delay.
Can I Appeal the BVA’s Remand Decision?
Certain decisions by the BVA can be appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (“CAVC”). However, this option is only available for final decisions.
A remand is not a final decision because it does not decide the ultimate issue in the claim. Instead, a remand sends the claim “back down the ladder” for VA to consider the claim in a different way. An unknowing veteran who attempts to appeal a remand to the CAVC will incur unnecessary effort and hassle on an appeal that will end up being dismissed.
What the Regional Office Does with a Remand
Since an appeal of a remand is not possible, that means the only choice is to be patient while the claim is decided (hopefully properly this time) by the Regional Office. However, being patient does not necessarily mean sitting and doing nothing in the meantime.
The Regional Office will be taking steps to decide the claim in accordance with the BVA’s instructions. This may mean developing the evidence needed to consider the claim. That can take the form of scheduling additional medical examinations, requesting service treatment records, private physician treatment records, Social Security records, etc.
What You Can Do While You Wait
It may be beneficial to provide evidence that will help the Regional Office reach the correct decision in the claim. You can develop evidence to try to prove your claim while waiting for the remand process. This may help you avoid additional remands in the future and get benefits quicker.
A veterans disability attorney can help you decide if this will help. An attorney may suggest a private medical examination to provide a helpful expert medical opinion. Other times, the attorney can help the veteran locate documentation of in-service events to establish service-connection of the claimed disability.
Regardless of the particular situation, it is important to view the delay associated with a remand as an additional opportunity to improve your claim as much as possible. Many veterans find the delay frustrating. But, taking the right approach gives you the best chance of eventually receiving the benefits you should.
I would be happy to talk to you about how you can use the VA’s slow-moving process to your advantage. The best way to do that is a free veterans disability consultation. Click on this article to find out some more information about what a free consultation is and how it works.
If you want to set one up now, just call our office at (770) 214-8885 or complete and submit this short consultation request form.