On May 1, 2020, in the beginning of the Covid-19 global pandemic, the Veterans Administration (VA) moved swiftly to announce the new availability of virtual hearings rather than traditional, face-to-face hearings. This was enacted following the Tele-hearing Modernization Act in 2020.
According to the VA, when a Veteran disagrees with the decision the VA made on their disability claim, the Veteran has three options when asking for another look at the decision. One of those options is called an appeal, which is sent to BVA (the Board). At the Board, the Veteran has the choice to request a hearing with a Veterans Law Judge (Judge). The Veteran, their representative, and the Judge all meet to discuss the Veteran’s appeal.The Judge is there to help, asking the Veteran questions to better understand the appeal. After the hearing, the appeal is held for about 90 days or more before the Judge reviews the appeal and issues a decision.
There were many positive results from this shift to virtual hearings, especially for Veteran claimants.
How Does a Virtual Hearing Work?
According to the VA, virtual hearings are a secure, confidential, and convenient option for Veterans seeking disability hearings. You may attend your virtual hearing from the location of your choice, preferably a quiet and secure place with steady wifi. Google Chrome is the recommended browser, and earbuds or headphones may be used for additional privacy. It’s recommended that you attend via laptop or a personal computer, but a phone with wifi capabilities is also approved.
First, you’ll be sworn in, just like in a face-to-face hearing. Your attorney may also be present. It’s important that you look into the camera and not at the computer screen, and that you make sure your volume settings are correct so that you can hear the proceeding and so that the judge and others present can also hear you. If you are having technical difficulties, you may request help through the chat function at the bottom of the screen.
What Can I Do to Improve my Testimony in a Virtual Hearing?
Just like in a face-to-face hearing, it’s best that you present your case in the best possible light. Your attorney can assist you with preparing the correct medical records and evidence of your service-related injury or illness. You can practice your testimony with your attorney as well, to make sure that you present sequences of events properly and also are clear and articulate in your delivery.
If you are uncomfortable with technology, it may help for you to receive assistance with your camera and microphone before your call.
Following the tele-hearing, you and your attorney may request a transcript of the hearing. No recording of the hearing will be made.
What are the Advantages of a Virtual Hearing?
A virtual hearing may have certain advantages over a face-to-face hearing, according to the VA. These include:
- Potentially shorter wait time for your disability hearing
- Potentially quicker hearing
- Greater convenience, especially if transportation is difficult for you
The VA processed more disability hearings in 2020 than in any year prior, making the change a more efficient model than in-person hearings.
What are the Disadvantages of a Virtual Hearing?
With your attorney by your side, even with a virtual hearing or appeal, your chances of a successful outcome are higher. However, a virtual hearing can also have several distinct disadvantages to you, including:
- You won’t meet the Veterans law judge in person, which could make a denial more likely.
- Your local attorney can better prepare for your hearing when they know who the law judge will be.
- By meeting face-to-face, the judge can best ascertain your credibility, sincerity, and level of disability.
Although a face-to-face hearing may require more work for you, regarding transportation, preparedness, and physical effort, you and your attorney can make the decision together for what is right for your specific disability hearing.
Whether you are filing an original claim, an increased claim for more compensation for your disability, a new claim for benefits related to a separate injury or illness than your original claim, a secondary service-connected claim, or a supplemental claim, the team at Affleck & Gordon is here to help you get the benefits you deserve for you service-related illness or injury. If you’re not sure where to start, contact us today for a free case evaluation to help you determine where you stand with your potential VA disability claim. Again, there will be no attorney fees unless we win your case on appeal.
VA Disability Facts:
- You may file for disability at any time after your service.
- Of all original claims filed each year for VA disability, 31% are denied.
- You may have all, none, or some of your claims denied.
- Of those initially denied, 60% are denied in error.
- If your original claim is denied, you typically have one year to file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD).
- The average decision time for an initial VA disability claim is 94.3 days. However this is only an average, and every case is different based on the complexity involved.
- A Virtual Hearing is, in most instances, a benefit to the claimant.
- Because judges can handle a higher volume of hearings virtually, you will most likely have a shorter wait for your hearing if you choose a virtual option.
At Affleck & Gordon, helping Veterans receive their disability benefits is a primary area of expertise. Serving Metro Atlanta and the greater Columbus/Phenix City area, the attorneys with Affleck & Gordon care deeply for their clients and assist them with problems that may arise with their disability claim.
If your VA Disability claim has been denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck & Gordon can help. We’ve been helping people in Georgia just like you for decades. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us (404) 990-3945.