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VA Disability Claims Glossary – Definitions – Abbreviations- Terms

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glossary-001.jpegVA Disability Claims Glossary will aid you as you pursue your VA Claim. There are words, acronyms, abbreviations, and more...the VA has its own language.

VA Disability Claims Glossary

VA Disability Claims When searching for information, it’s important to get the acronyms right.

  • FR is Federal Register. CFR is the Code of Federal Regulations.
  • U.S.C. is the United States Code.
  • Pub. L. is Public Law.
  • Stat. is U.S. Statutes at Large.
  • E.O. is Executive order.
  • Proc. is Proclamation
  • sec. is a section of a Public Law or the United States Code

Advance on the Docket A change in the order in which an appeal is reviewed and decided – from the date when it would normally occur to an earlier date.

ALJ Administrative Law Judge

AOJ Agency of Original Jurisdiction

Appeal A request for a review of an AOJ determination on a claim.

Appellant An individual who has appealed an AOJ claim determination.

Axis Multi-axial systemThe DSM-IV organizes each psychiatric diagnosis into five levels (axes) relating to different aspects of disorder or disability:

  • Axis I: Clinical disorders, including major mental disorders and learning disorders
  • Axis II: Personality disorders and mental retardation (although developmental disorders, such as Autism, were coded on Axis II in the previous edition, these disorders are now included on Axis I)
  • Axis III: Acute medical conditions and physical disorders
  • Axis IV: Psychosocial and environmental factors contributing to the disorder
  • Axis V: Global Assessment of Functioning or Children’s Global Assessment Scale for children and teens under the age of 18

BMAO Board medical advisor opinion

Board The Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

Board Member, An attorney appointed by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and approved by the President, who decides veterans’ benefits appeals.

Board of Veterans’ Appeals The part of the VA that reviews benefit claims appeals and issues decisions on those appeals.

BVA Board of Veterans Appeals

BVA Hearing A personal hearing, held at the BVA office in Washington, D.C., or a regional office, is conducted by a member of the Board. A BVA hearing can be held via videoconference from some regional offices. Also, see Travel Board Hearing.

C & P Compensation and Pension

C-FILE VA Claims Folder

CFR Code of Federal Regulations

Claim A request for veterans’ benefits.

Claim Number A number assigned by VA that identifies a person who has filed a claim; often called a “C-number.”

Claims File Same as claims folder.

Claims Folder The file containing all documents concerning a veteran’s claim or appeal.

Court of Veterans Appeals An independent court that reviews appeals of BVA decisions.

COVA U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals

CUE Clear and Unmistakable Error

Decision The final product of BVA’s review of an appeal. Possible decisions are to grant or deny the benefit or benefits claimed or to remand the case back to the AOJ for additional action.

Determination A decision on a claim made at the AOJ.

Docket A listing of appeals that have been filed with BVA. Appeals are listed in numerical order, called docket number order, based on when a VA Form 9 is received by VA.

Docket Number The number assigned to an appeal when a VA Form 9 is received by VA. By law, cases are reviewed by the Board in docket number order.

DRO Decision Review Officer

DSM IV Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th Edition

DSM 5 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition

EAJA Equal Access to Justice Act

En banc In the bench. Full bench. Refers to a session where the entire membership of the court will participate in the decision rather than the regular quorum. In the U.S., the Circuit Courts of Appeal usually sit in panels of judges, but for important cases, they may expand the bench to a larger number when they are said to be sitting en banc.

File To submit in writing.

FOIA Freedom Of Information Act

GAF Global Assessment of Functioning Scale (Use of GAF Score ceased in 2014 with the publishing of the DSM 5)

GOE Gathering of Evidence on eBenefits.

Hearing A meeting, similar to an interview, between an appellant and an official from VA who will decide an appellant’s case, during which testimony and other evidence supporting the case is presented. There are two types of personal hearings: Regional office hearings (also called local office hearings) and BVA hearings.

HISA Home Improvement and Structural Alterations Program

IFP In Forma Pauperis In the character or manner of a pauper. Describes permission given to a poor person (I.e., indigent) to proceed without liability for court fees or costs. An indigent will not be deprived of his rights to litigate and appeal: if the court is satisfied with his indigence, he may proceed without incurring costs or fees of court.

IG Inspector General

Infra Below, under, beneath, underneath. The opposite of supra, above. Thus we say primo gradu est – supra, pater, mater, infra, filius, filia: in the first degree of kindred in the ascending line, above is the father, and mother, below, in the descending line, son and daughter.

Issue A benefit sought on a claim or an appeal. For example, if an appeal seeks a decision on three different matters, the appeal is said to contain three issues.

IU Individual Unemployability

Local Office Hearing A personal hearing conducted by an RO officer. A regional office hearing may be conducted in addition to a BVA hearing.

Member of the Board, An attorney appointed by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and approved by the President, who decides veterans’ benefits appeals.

Motion A legal term is a request that some specific action is taken.

Motion to Advance on the Docket A request that BVA reviews and decide on an appeal sooner than when it normally would be based on the appeal’s docket number order.

Motion to Reconsider A request for BVA to review its decision on an appeal.

New and Material Evidence

a. A claimant must submit “new and material” evidence to reopen a previously disallowed claim.

(1) To qualify as “new” evidence under 38 CFR 3.156, evidence, whether documentary, testimonial, or in some other form, must be submitted to VA for the first time. For example, a veteran injured while on duty may not have realized immediately that the condition required medical attention and may have sought treatment later that evening from a private physician. A compensation claim might later be denied if the service medical records contain no mention of treatment for the condition. Should the claimant subsequently submit proof of treatment by the civilian physician, that information would constitute new evidence on which the claim could be reopened?

(2) A photocopy or other duplication of information already contained in a VA claims folder does not constitute new evidence since it was previously considered; neither does information confirming a point already established, such as a statement from a physician verifying the existence of a condition which has already been diagnosed and reported by another physician. Even though such a medical evaluation is from a different doctor, it offers no new basis on which the claim might be reopened unless it contains new information, such as evidence that the condition first manifested itself earlier than previously established.

b. In order to be considered “material” under 38 CFR 3.156, the additional information must bear directly and substantially on the specific matter under consideration.

(1) For example, if VA has previously determined that a back condition claimed by a World War II veteran is not service-connected, evidence that the claimant received treatment shortly after release from active duty might be considered new and material if the VA had previously been unaware of that treatment. However, information addressing only the current severity of the condition submitted now, over 40 years after service, may not have a bearing on the issue of whether the condition was incurred or aggravated during military service and does not warrant reopening the prior claim.

(2) Statements and affidavits attesting to the claimant’s good character since his or her release from active duty are irrelevant if the issue is the character of the claimant’s military service, but any new information offering mitigating circumstances for an action that resulted in an “other than honorable” discharge would address the specific issue under consideration and would warrant reopening the claim.

(3) A medical opinion is not material if it relies on historical facts which are wholly inaccurate.

c. A determination by VA that information constitutes “new and material evidence” means that the new information is sufficiently significant, either by itself or in connection with evidence already of record, that it must be considered in order to decide the merits of the claim fairly. It does not mean that the evidence warrants a revision of a prior determination.

d. A decision not to reopen a claim because the evidence submitted is not new and material is an appealable decision. The claimant must be furnished notice of procedural and appellate rights.

NOA Notice of Appeal

NOD Notice of Disagreement

Notice of Disagreement written statement expressing dissatisfaction or disagreement with a local VA office’s determination on a benefit claim that must be filed within one year of the date of the regional office’s decision.

NVLSP suggests adding this to the I-9 form- usually, there is enough space under the hearing questions on the I-9 form. “I take exception to and preserve for appeal ALL errors the VARO may have made, or the Board hereafter could make in deciding this appeal. This includes all legal errors, all factual errors, failure to follow M21-1, all due process errors, and any failures to discharge the duty to assist as a violation of basic VA laws and regulations within 38 USCS and 38 CFR.”

NSLI National Service Life Insurance

NSO National Service Officer

Per Curiam By the court. A phrase used to distinguish an opinion of the whole court from an opinion written by any one judge. Sometimes it denotes an opinion written by the chief justice or presiding judge or a brief announcement of the disposition of a case by the court not accompanied by a written opinion.

PFD Preparation For Decision on eBenefits

PL Public Law

POA Power of Attorney

PTSD Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Regional Office A local VA office; there are 58 regional VA offices throughout the U.S. and its territories.

Regional Office Hearing A personal hearing conducted by an RO officer. A regional office hearing may be conducted in addition to a BVA hearing.

Remand An appeal returned to the regional office or medical facility where the claim originated.

Representative Someone familiar with the benefits claims process who assists claimants in preparing and presenting an appeal. Most representatives are Veterans’ Service Organization employees who specialize in veterans’ benefits claims. Most states, commonwealths, and territories also have experienced representatives to assist veterans. Other individuals, such as lawyers, may also serve as appeal representatives.

RO Regional Office

RO Hearing A personal hearing conducted by an RO officer. A regional office hearing may be conducted in addition to a BVA hearing.

ROA Record on Appeal

SC Service Connection

SMR Service Medical Record

SOC Statement of Case

SSA Social Security Administration

SSDI Social Security Disability Income

SSOC Supplemental Statement of Case

Statement of the Case Prepared by the AOJ is a summary of the evidence considered, as well as a listing of the laws and regulations used in deciding a benefit claim. It also provides information on the right to appeal an RO’s decision to BVA.

Substantive Appeal A completed VA Form 9.

Supplemental Statement of the Case A summary, similar to a SOC, that the VA prepares if a VA Form 9 contains a new issue or presents new evidence and the benefit is still denied. A Supplemental Statement of the Case will also be provided after an appeal is returned (remanded) to the RO by the Board for new or additional action.

TDHR Texas Department of Human Resources

TDIU Total Rating Based on Individual Unemployability

Travel Board Hearing A personal hearing conducted at a VA regional office by a member of the Board.

United States Court of Veterans Appeals An independent court that reviews appeals of BVA decisions.

USC United States Code

VA Veterans Administration

VA Form 9 This form, which accompanies the SOC, formally initiates the appeal process.

VAMC Veterans Administration Medical Center

Veterans’ Service Organization, An organization that represents the interests of veterans. Most Veterans’ Service Organizations have specific membership criteria, although membership is not usually required to obtain assistance with benefit claims or appeals.

VJRA Veterans’ Judicial Review Act

VRO Veterans Administration Regional Office

VSO Veterans’ Service Organization

Well Grounded A well-grounded claim requires three elements: (1) a medical showing of a current medical condition; (2) lay or, in certain circumstances, the medical evidence of disease or injury in service; and (3) medical evidence showing a nexus between the asserted injury in service and the current disability. Where medical evidence is required, medical journal articles alone will generally not suffice unless they are enhanced by a physician’s opinion stating that the current disability was related, is likely to be related, could be related, or even possibly was related to service. A physician’s opinion need not be conclusive to establish a well-grounded claim.

Alternatively, both the second and third elements above can be satisfied by the submission of minimum evidence (a) that the condition was “noted” during service or during an applicable presumption period; (b) that there has been post-service continuity of symptomatology (as to which lay opinion can suffice; and (c) medical, or in some rare circumstances, lay evidence of a nexus between the present disability and the post-service symptomatology.

Writ of Mandamus: A writ of mandamus is an order issued by a court to compel an agency to act on a decision that has been unreasonably withheld. It is used in the VA context when the VA does nothing on a claim after you have asked that it be decided. It cannot be used to compel a particular result — say, service connection — only that the VA go up or down on it.

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