Many, if not most, veterans who apply for VA compensation or pension benefits will disagree with the ratings decision they receive from the Regional Office (RO). Luckily, these claims examiners at the Regional Office do not have the final say over whether veterans receive benefits.
By timely filing a Notice of Disagreement (NOD), a veteran can appeal his or her claim to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA). This appeals process can take a long time, usually many months or even years. When veterans finally receive a decision from the BVA, it may not be what they were expecting.
Many people think an appeal will result in a decision either affirming or denying the decision made by the RO. While that may be true in many areas of law, that is not usually the case in claims before VA for veterans disability benefits.
The long-awaited appeals decision is often in the form of a “remand.” Because a remand is not a final decision, this can be confusing and frustrating to a veteran still waiting for the benefits to which he is entitled.
What Is a Remand
In general terms, a remand is an order from the appellate court sending a case back to a lower court with some instructions for further action to be taken by that lower court. In terms of a VA claim, a remand is a decision from the BVA (or some other higher court) sending the claim back to the RO.
The remand will have specific instructions on what the RO should do differently to decide the claim correctly. Rather than focusing on the outcome reached by the RO, a remand focuses on the way the RO examined the claim and arrived at a decision.
Examples of Remands
Here is an example to illustrate this point. Suppose a veteran filed for disability compensation benefits due to a painful, arthritic knee in need of a total knee replacement. The veteran had a Compensation and Pension (C&P) examination to determine if the current disability was due to an in-service incident twenty years prior.
However, the orthopedic doctor performing the C&P examination did not clearly indicate in his report whether the old injury became a chronic condition that resulted in the current degenerated condition of the knee. Then, the RO denied that the disability was service-connected due to a lack of evidence establishing a nexus between military service and the current disability.
In that situation, if the case was appealed to the BVA by filing a Notice of Disagreement, the BVA would not decide whether or not the knee disability was service-connected. Also, the BVA would not say what the disability rating percentage should be.
Instead, the BVA would (hopefully) remand the claim back to the Regional Office that issued the rating decision. Part of the BVA’s order would instruct the RO to gather medical evidence on the etiology (i.e., cause) of the current knee condition. They would probably even specifically to order the Regional Office to schedule another C&P examination to have this addressed by a qualified physician.
What Happens after the Remand
Once the Regional Office has done everything required by the BVA, another rating decision will be issued by the RO. If that decision is not satisfactory, the veteran can appeal once again to the Board of Veterans Appeals.
As you can see, the remand means more time until a final decision is reached. Because of this, many veterans want to appeal a remand from the BVA. Unfortunately, for reasons that are discussed in this article, that is not possible.
A VA-accredited attorney can advise you of the best steps to take in response to a remand from the BVA to improve your claim as much as possible. If you have questions about your VA claim at any point during the claims process, talking to a VA disability attorney may be helpful.
The VA disability attorneys at our firm provide free consultations to help you get some answers to your questions. To find out more about what a free consultation is, what you will learn, and how you can set one up, just take a look at this article.
If you are ready to set one up, there are two easy ways to do that:
- Call us at (770) 214-8885
- Complete and submit this form
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