Overview of the VA adjudication process

The process used by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to adjudicate claims for veterans’ benefits consists of two levels. Claims are filed and adjudicated at the first level, which is considered the “agency of original jurisdiction” (AOJ) (38 U.S.C.S. 7105 (b) (1)).  The agencies of original jurisdiction are the fifty-eight VA regional offices located around the county. If the veteran is dissatisfied with the decision received from one of the fifty-eight regional offices they have one year from the date of that decision to appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). If the decision is not appealed to BVA within the one year time frame, the regional office decision becomes final. The BVA is the second level of appeal and makes the final agency decision.

Agency Process

  • Claim is filed- The claimant may file an original claim, reopened claim, or claim for revision on a previous final decision based upon a clear and unmistakable error.
  • VA makes decision on claim and mails decision to the claimant.
  • Claimant files a Notice of Disagreement (NOD)- this must be filed within one year of the mailing from the AOJ.
  • Claimant has the option to request a Decision Review Officer (DRO) review within 60 days of the AOJ’s letter offering them a DRO review.
  • If the claimant chooses the DRO review, the AOJ mails the claimant the DRO decision.  If a DRO review is not selected the AOJ will mail the claimant a Statement of the Case (SOC).
  • Claimant files a substantive appeal (VA Form 9). This form has to be filed within 60 days of the SOC or 1 year from the mailing of the NOD, whichever is later. This perfects the claimant’s appeal. If the VAF 9 is NOT filed the appeal dies and the AOJ’s decision on the SOC becomes final.
  • The AOJ certifies the case to the BVA.
  • BVA decides the case and mails out a decision to the claimant.