- The Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB) is the independent appeal tribunal for the disability pension and disability award programs administered by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). Applicants who are dissatisfied with their departmental decision have two levels of redress before VRAB: review and appeal. The Board also hears final appeals of War Veterans Allowance applications.
- Applicants may bring forward new information, be represented at no cost and present arguments in support of their application for disability benefits. The Board’s appeal process is non-adversarial, which means that no one is arguing against the Veteran.
- The review hearing is the only time in the process when applicants may appear and testify about the facts of their application. Review hearings are normally conducted by two Board members and take place in locations across Canada in both official languages.
- If applicants are not satisfied with their review decision, they may request an appeal hearing before three different Board members. While the legislation does not permit applicants to testify in person again, they may submit written statements and new evidence. The hearing is a further opportunity for their representative to make arguments on their behalf.
- Currently, the Board has 25 members (16 work out of major cities and conduct review hearings, while 9 conduct appeal hearings at VRAB's Head Office in Charlottetown).
- The last 14 members appointed to the Board have military, medical, policing or legal backgrounds. 84% of the Board's current members (21 of 25) have these backgrounds.
VRAB Statistics for 2013-14:
- In 2013-14, the Board finalized 3,213 review decisions (i.e. the first level of redress) at the request of applicants. This represents 10% of the 33,000 decisions* made by VAC in the same year with appeal rights to VRAB. The Board also finalized 1,159 appeal decisions (i.e. the second level of redress).
- VRAB applicant profile: 88% Canadian Armed Forces members and Veterans; 5% Traditional Veterans (Second World War, Korean War); 7% RCMP.
- On average, the Board ruled favourably in 47% of the 3,213 review decisions and 43% of the 1,159 appeal decisions.
- The Board has committed to issuing written decisions to applicants within six weeks of their hearing. In 2013-14, 84% of review decisions and 85% of appeal decisions met this target.
- If applicants have exhausted all their redress options at the Board and remain dissatisfied, they have the right to apply to the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of the decision. In 2013-14, 6 applicants requested a judicial review. In the same year, the Court issued 11 decisions (pending from applications made in previous years). Of these, eight upheld the Board's decision while the other three returned the application to the Board for a new hearing.
- Top 6 medical conditions at Review – number of hearings
- lower back conditions – 400
- knee conditions – 348
- tinnitus - 250
- hearing loss – 205
- neck conditions – 201
- post-traumatic stress disorder – 185
- Top 6 medical conditions at Appeal - number of hearings
- lower back conditions – 192
- knee conditions – 113
- neck conditions – 86
- tinnitus – 73
- hearing loss - 72
- post-traumatic stress disorder – 71
*Includes VAC decisions re: first applications for disability benefits, department reviews and medical reassessments