How to appeal a VAC Disability Benefit
How to Appeal a Veterans Affairs Canada Disability Benefit Decision
Veterans who are unhappy with decisions that Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) made relating to their claims for disability benefits and other awards have two main ways to appeal a decision. The appeal process can take place within VAC or before the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB).
VAC Departmental Review
Section 82 of the Pension Act (PA) and Section 84 of the New Veterans Charter (NVC) along with Section 6 of the Award Regulations allow VAC to confirm, amend or rescind a Departmental decision if an error with respect to any finding of fact or interpretation of any law has occurred or if new evidence comes to light. Veterans may choose to request a Departmental Review (DR).
Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB)
VRAB provides an independent redress process if a veteran is not satisfied with a disability decision made by VAC.
There are two levels of redress provided by the VRAB: the Review hearing and a subsequent Appeal Hearing.
The Review hearing is the first and only opportunity for veterans to appear and testify in person regarding the facts of their case. Review hearings are normally conducted by two Board members and take place at various locations across Canada. This makes it easier for veterans to attend and to present testimony in person. The Board also offers Review Hearings by videoconference as a timely and convenient option.
At the Review hearing, the veterans’ representative presents arguments on behalf of the veteran, who also has the opportunity to testify. Both the veteran and their representative will receive a written decision from the Board.
If a veteran is not satisfied with the decision from their Review hearing, they have the right to request an Appeal hearing before the VRAB. Three Board members who were not involved in the Review hearing conduct the Appeal hearing. Appeals are usually held at the Board’s Head Office in Charlottetown.
Oral testimony by the veteran is not permitted by the legislation at the Appeal level. However, the hearing provides the veteran’s representative with a further opportunity to make oral and/or written arguments in support of the claim. As a result, veterans seldom attend an Appeal hearing though they may attend at their own expense. Both the veteran and their representative will receive a written decision from the Board.
If an Appeal level decision contains an error of fact or an error of law, or if new evidence comes to light at a later date, veterans may apply to the VRAB for Reconsideration. The new evidence must meet a test of “Due Diligence” for the Reconsideration to proceed. The law requires the same Board members who ruled on the Appeal to form the Reconsideration panel, if they are still in office.
If the veteran has exhausted all redress options at the VRAB and is still dissatisfied, they have the right to apply to the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of the decision. Since the Federal Court Act provides for a 30-day limitation period from the date of receipt of the Board’s decision, it would be necessary for the veteran to consult a private solicitor immediately upon receipt of the decision.More information on the VRAB and how to Appeal is available on their website http://www.vrab-tacra.gc.ca or by calling toll-free 1-800-450-8006.
Free Representation Assistance is Available
The Bureau of Pensions Advocates (BPA) or a Command Service Officer from the Royal Canadian Legion will provide free preparation and representation assistance with reviews, appeals and reconsiderations. For more information contact: