A few notes about what veterans are up against at the BVA. (PDF LINK: BVA2013AR).
The Office of Veterans Law Judges (OVLJ) “consists of two Deputy Vice Chairmen (DVC), 10 Chief VLJs, up to 78 VLJs, and approximately 400 attorneys who prepare tentative written decisions for review and signature by a VLJ. ” In the third and fourth quarters they hired 125 new full time staff which included 114 new attorneys.
The new lawyers were trained in a new program including “3 months of intensive classroom and practical training, as well as 3 months of decision-writing under the guidance of more senior attorney coaches, sought to ensure that the new hires were trained uniformly and that each developed the skill set required to draft timely, high quality decisions in a short period of time. “ In contrast, they held some forums for VSOs.
They cite several cases in 2013 as significant–maybe NOD will explain why.
- Walker v. Shinseki, 708 F.3d 1331 (Fed. Cir. 2013) “This case is significant because it clarifies the role of § 3.303(b) so that this continuity of symptomatology provision applies only to the diseases specifically labeled as “chronic” under § 3.309(a).”
- Viegas v. Shinseki, 705 F.3d 1374 (Fed. Cir. 2013) “This case is significant because it clarified the causation requirement under 38 U.S.C. § 1151.”
- Jones v. Shinseki, 26 Vet. App. 56 (2012) “This case is significant because the CAVC stated that to the extent that prior case law had not addressed this issue, it was now explicitly holding that the Board may not deny entitlement to a higher disability rating on the basis of relief provided by medication when those effects are not specifically contemplated by the rating criteria.”
- Johnson v. Shinseki, 26 Vet. App. 237 (2013): “This case is significant because the CAVC determined that the Board is not required to consider whether a Veteran is entitled to extraschedular consideration for multiple disabilities on a collective basis.”
- Romanowsky v. Shinseki, 26 Vet. App. 289 (2013) “This case is significant because it requires the Board to address evidence of a potentially current diagnosis regardless of whether that diagnosis was made prior to when a claim was filed.”
- Uh oh. The Flexiplace Program allowed 165 of the Board’s employees to telecommute; that means that encrypted laptops went home with them.
- Factoid: Video teleconference hearings saves average 100 days from decision times.
Quote: The average length of time between the filing of an appeal (i.e., Substantive Appeal (VA Form 9)) at the AOJ and the Board’s disposition of the appeal was 960 days in FY 2013. This time period reflects more of the multi‑step appeals process than just the time that an appeal spends at the Board. As reflected in the chart below, the average time between the time that an appeal was physically received and docketed at the Board to disposition was only 235 days.
- Board count at the end of FY 2013: 61 members. In addition, there were 563 (largely attorneys) and administrative, clerical and other personnel employed. Grand total: 624 churned out about 160.6 decisions per day based on 261 work days.
- Most successful representation (allowed): Attorney 31%; Military Order of the Purple Heart 29.6%; VFW 28.6%; Agent 27%; DAV 26.9%; state service Organizations 26.2%; AMVETS 25.9%; PVA 25.5%; Am Legion 25.3%; Other VSOs 23.9%; VVA 22.6%; No representation 19.4%. Attorneys had the most wins, the fewest denials yet less than 10% of the veterans’ appeals were represented by an attorney.
- A handy infographic illustrates the process if you open the pdf to page 28 and flip it (LINK). Sorry, I can’t enlarge the image.
I think they should break out the VSOs rather than lumping them together in the “others” category.
I don’t know what the educational requirements are for certified VSO representatives however the BVA’s lawyers are well-qualified educationally. And after three months of training, they will have learnt the wayward ways of VA benefit claim methods and apply them swiftly each business day. So, as NOD reminds us often, lawyer up.