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2011 to 2016 BVA sends me to a Veterans Law Judge


I'll apologize in advance here if things get confusing or I ramble.  One of my injuries is a TBI and I tend to not make sense at times. 

In 08/2011 I initially filed with the VA for several injuries that happened while in active duty that were causing chronic problems (20+ years) with me. Everything (except tinnitus) was denied by the C&P examiner who claimed there was no medical records, despite me sending in hundreds of pages of treatments.  The DAV became my representative shortly after this happened.

in 2012 I sent in duplicate copies and appealed.  I can't recall everything that happened between those days but in 04/2103 I filled out an "Appeal to Board of Veterans Appeals".  I had left the Optional BVA Hearing section blank.
Sometime in 2012 or 2013 a VA doctor who was treating me for the headaches helped me with my claim by filling out the support form.  Another doctor also wrote a letter stating my headaches and memory issues were likely caused by the TBI I received.  Everything else  just sat in the appeal bucket.

Fast forward to 2016 and this past summer I found it was being sent to the BVA.  Yesterday I received a letter from both the VA and the DAV stating the Board of Veterans' Appeals has scheduled a hearing before a Veterans Law Judge next month.  The DAV called it a Travel Board Hearing.

At least we're moving forward though I don't know if this is a good thing or bad thing.

Today I pulled out my initial claim paperwork and printed out what the have marked as "not service connected" on the VA benefits website.  There's 2 items on there where they entered it wrong... right arm instead of the left arm injury that I claimed.  Chronic headaches are marked as not service connected though further down I am rated for migraine headaches (claimed as chronic headaches).

So I have some questions:

  • Is seeing a judge from a Travel Board Hearing typically a nightmare?  I'm in Georgia if results vary in different regions.
  • Should I wear a suit or at least a tie?  The only suit I have is something I wear to funerals.
  • There was also a form I need to return which I need to choose a statement saying I will attend or not.  Another option in the letter is for cancelling the hearing and have my records forwarded  to the Board for a decision to be made based on the evidence of records.  I would prefer to attend the hearing though not if it's going to be a bloodbath.
  • I recently went through cancer surgery and I have bladder issues.  Between that and my IBS I often need to head to the bathroom with little warning.  I'm concerned this will cause a problem in the hearing as well.
  • On the TBI where I am currently rated for residuals of head injury - traumatic brain injury with arachnoid cyst plus the migraine headaches (claimed as chronic headaches).  Will they be re-reviewing this? 

Thanks for any input.  I tried searching to see what to expect but I didn't find what I was needing.



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I apologize if this is too late for your hearing, but irregardless it may help out someone else.

I have been to the board 4 times.

- The judges have always been very nice to me.  Some have shown a lot of irritation with the case itself, namely the local VA office.  

- Dress nice.  Its not going to court; pretty informal, but it never hurts to look nice, such as a button down shirt and slacks.

- I have preferred being able to talk to the judge, so I would go.

- Let everyone know upfront about any issues you may have that might impact the hearing.  These are federal judges who preside over cases with disabled veterans;  they've had to deal with issues like that before.  

- If your TBI symptoms are part of your appeal, they will review it.  You will not come away with a lower rating unless there is a clear and unmistakable error or fraud.  

* The BVA is limited on what they can consider;  they can only rule on what you have appealed, and only if those items have been denied at a lower level (you can't appeal something that the local office hasn't already ruled on.  That said, they can remand your appeal with specific instructions concerning things that haven't been adjudicated, say a disability that is secondary to your appealed disability that the judge finds.   

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I dont know how soon the hearing is, but I would "not" recommend someone with TBI who admits they dont make sense all the time represent himself alone at this hearing.  

Who do you trust who could go with you?  Your spouse?  family member?  Best friend?  

If you dont have any of those, then you certainly need a representative.  Your choces are to go with a "free" VSO, or to hire an attorney.  I tend to favor an attorney instead of a free VSO who is paid by your opponent, the VA.  Yea, the VSO's dont likke to admit this, but ask them who pays the VSO rent in your VAMC or VARO?  I think VA does, so guess who the VSO owes his allegance to..the VA who pays their rent every month, or a Vet who stumbled into their office??

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I agree with broncovet  go to the BVA with an experienced Attorney.

plus take your spouse for support.

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Another suggestion

Look up BVA Citations/Decisions from the BVA and look for cases similar to yours to get  good Ideal of what to expect or help with your claim.

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