What is The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims?

The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims is the Court of Last Resort

In the context of veterans’ disability claims, the term “CAVC” comes up a lot.  It is a reference to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims.  The CAVC is an “Article I” court with the exclusive jurisdiction (i.e. authority) to review decisions from the Board of Veterans Appeals (“BVA”).  As a practical matter this means that the final decision for almost all veterans’ disability claims appealed will be the CAVC.  Other terms that are sometimes used to refer to the CAVC are the “Veterans Court” or “USCAVC.”

Back Up; What’s the BVA?

The BVA, established in 1933, is the hearing authority that initially hears appeals from veterans’ disability claims.  It is a part of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  As noted in previous disability blogs, the role of the BVA is to review determinations about veterans’ claims, including those made by local VA offices.  The BVA is not a true court; rather, it is a board made up of approximately 64 board members who serve a quasi-judicial function.  These board members are typically attorneys with substantial experience in the field of veterans’ claims.  The BVA generally hears around 50,000 appeals per year.

Back up Again, What’s Article I?

Article I is a section of the U.S. Constitution.  Article I courts are those that are formed under the authority of the legislature.  This differs from most other federal courts which are formed under Article III, which is the section of the U.S. Constitution that is the primary authority for establishing federal courts.

What Power Does the CAVC Have?

The scope of the CAVC’s power is largely outlined in 38 U.S.C. § 7261, which provides the CAVC with the power to review and affirm, reverse, or modify BVA decisions as well as the authority to interpret and apply relevant law.

The CAVC is a relatively new court, formed in 1988, and the only court with the authority to review the decisions of the BVA.  Unlike the BVA, the CAVC is independent from the VA, giving it more autonomy and arguably allowing it to issue more impartial opinions.  The CAVC’s creation marked a huge step forward for veterans who previously had no recourse if their veterans’ benefits were denied.

Judges for the CAVC are appointed through the same process as Article III judges; more specifically, they are appointed by the President with consent of the Senate.  They are appointed for 15-year terms and many retired judges come back on an as-needed basis.

Want to Know More?

Understanding the structure of courts and the interactions among them is of the utmost importance when applying for or appealing a veterans’ disability claim.  For more information about the CAVC or your veterans’ disability claim, contact the attorneys at the Rocky Mountain Disability Law Group today.  Our practice focuses of disability benefits and veterans.  We’re happy to help explain the process and your options.

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