The Board of Veterans’ Appeals is one of the adjudicators of claims within the VA. It is in Washington, DC. It is made up of judges. They review the decisions of the local VA regional office to determine whether there was error in a previous VA decision.
If you received a decision from the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, you ordinarily have only 120 days to file your appeal at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The Board should have included with its decision the instructions on how to appeal.
If you miss the 120-day deadline, it is more difficult, but not impossible, for the Court to accept your late appeal. But why risk it? You should follow the instructions for appealing the decision or talk to an experienced attorney as soon as possible about your options.
The Court requires payment of a $50.00 filing fee. However, many veterans are unable to afford it. After all, VA denied their benefits! If you are unable to afford the filing fee, the Court can waive the filing fee upon the submission of a declaration of financial hardship. That form is on the Court’s website.
The Court requires that you follow its very specific and regimented processes through the appeal. If at any point you fail to do what the rules require, the Court can dismiss the appeal, and you lose.
You also must present your legal arguments and persuade the Court that the Board made a mistake in your case that, had it not been made, would have resulted in a different outcome for you. There are thousands of statutory and regulatory provisions and more than 25 years of cases that the Court will use to decide whether your case was wrongly decided. Your duty is to figure out which of those laws applies in your case and persuade the Court to decide the appeal in your favor.
Moreover, appeals at the Court are the first time that your case has been subject to the adversarial process. Before you appeal to the Court, the VA is supposed to be helping you win your benefits. At the Court, VA’s obligations shift to primarily defending the Board’s decision against the appeal. That means that VA’s experienced attorneys are now working to defend VA’s decision and not working to assist you!
This is a daunting task. You shouldn’t have to do it alone.
An experienced attorney, like Mr. Wesche, can do it all for you. He has worked at the Court, he understands the laws and cases, and he has a winning track record – and can use that experience for you.
The time can vary case to case. You should not expect the time it took in one case to indicate how long it will take for yours. Each case is different, and that requires different approaches, different arguments, and therefore a different amount of time for each.
Don't let anyone tell you that they can resolve your appeal quickly. There are too many variables for any attorney who knows what they are doing to be able to give you a concrete prediction.
Everyone has a universal notion of what a “win” is. People commonly think of it as the Court telling VA to award the benefits that had been denied.
Unfortunately, that’s not what a win at the Court often looks like. A veteran or dependent can “win” a case at the Court and still not be awarded the benefits. Rather, a “win” at the Court often is when the Court tells the Board that it came to its decision incorrectly and that it needs to try again. In legal language, we call that “vacate and remand”. Simply stated, that means that the Court nullifies the Board’s decision (vacates) and sends the claim back for a new decision (remands).
You might ask: So, why bother appealing if the Court won’t award the benefits? The reason is simple. If you don’t appeal, you can’t win another chance for VA to make the right decision and award you the benefits. That’s what you get with a remand.
Also, one of the difficulties of an appeal at the Court is that you ordinarily cannot submit any new evidence that could win your case. Only the Board or the regional office can review new evidence. So, a remand from the Court can open another chance for you to submit the evidence that fills any gaps in your claim.
At the end of the day, a remand is better than having to start all over again.
You’re right to wonder. No one really works for free. And you should not expect that an attorney who knows what he’s doing would work for free either.
If Mr. Wesche agrees to represent you before the Court, he will ask the federal government to pay his legal fees and expenses, but only if you prevail in your appeal. Regardless of the outcome, the representation will be at no charge to you.*
*The law limits the government’s obligation to pay these attorney fees and expenses to those parties to the litigation with a net worth of $2,000,000 or less at the time of the filing of the appeal. If your net worth exceeds this limit, Mr. Wesche can arrange other payment options.
Mr. Wesche usually limits his practice to appeals at the Court. It is a focus that few attorneys have. By doing so, he can provide the highest quality representation.
Mr. Wesche’s representation is limited only to an appeal to the Court. Unless you have already hired or retained someone to represent you at the Court, you can hire Mr. Wesche without affecting or interfering with your current representation before the VA. If you are currently represented, you should discuss your options with that representative and whether they can represent you at the Court.
Excellent question. The reason is quite simple: You hire experts to do things for you that you don’t know how to do or can’t do by yourself. Doctors. Car mechanics. Why not a lawyer, especially one that has fought for veterans for more than a decade before the Court?