The final step in any appeal for veterans benefits is a hearing before the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA). This hearing can be held in person or by videoconferencing. Regardless of how it is held, you should prepare extensively since a lot rides on this hearing. The BVA judge who hears your case can approve your request for benefits or deny you. In a few situations, the judge might kick your case back down to the local office for more fact finding.
Understand the Set Up
In-person hearings can be heard in Washington, D.C. or by a traveling judge that holds hearings at each regional office. If you are having a hearing by videoconference, you will be in a conference room at your local VA office. Your lawyer can be with you.
Before the hearing, the judge will have reviewed all of the evidence and will have a grasp on the issues in dispute. You can submit new evidence before the hearing, but you should do so well in advance of your hearing date so that it arrives in time and is included in your file.
During your hearing, you will testify under oath. The hearing is less formal than a trial, but you still must conduct yourself professionally. If you have a lawyer, he or she can ask you questions. When your lawyer is done, the BVA judge will ask you questions.
Remember to always listen to the question before answering and to always answer the question asked. If you don’t understand a question or didn’t hear it, ask your lawyer or the judge to repeat it. Always be respectful and never interrupt the judge or cut him off.
To prepare for testifying, your lawyer can create a mock examination where you answer questions as if it is the real hearing. A mock examination is a good way to identify your weaknesses as a witness. For example, you might get quiet when answering questions, or you might talk too much with your hands. Your lawyer can help you become a more confident witness.
Witnesses and Evidence
You can also have other people testify on your behalf at the hearing. For example, people who know you can testify as to how the disability has affected you. You can also introduce new evidence such as medical records.
Proper preparation for the BVA hearing includes identifying people who might have information that is helpful to your case. Your lawyer can run through the evidence and identify any weaknesses and make sure you plug these holes when presenting your case to the BVA judge.
Remember what you need to prove to prevail in your appeal:
- You are an eligible veteran
- You have shown a service connection between your disability and your military service
- You are sufficiently impaired
- The effective date of your disability
Contact a Veterans Benefits Lawyer in Chicago
Obtaining benefits after an initial denial is a long process that can take years. At the Comerford Law Office, we understand how stressful the experience can be. Those who have an attorney representing them in the hearing have a better chance of success than those who represent themselves. Please contact us today to schedule your free consultation.