Frequently Asked Questions

General

What does the Veterans Review and Appeal Board do?

The Veterans Review and Appeal Board is the arm's-length tribunal that provides an independent avenue of appeal for disability benefits decisions made by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC, the Department). The Board offers Veterans two levels of redress: a Review hearing; and, if the Veteran remains dissatisfied, an Appeal hearing.

How is the Board different than Veterans Affairs Canada?

The Veterans Review and Appeal Board is an entirely separate and independent organization from Veterans Affairs Canada. Our mission is to provide timely, respectful hearings and fair, plain-language decisions to those who turn to us for redress of their disability benefits decisions.

Who can apply to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board?

Anyone who is dissatisfied with a Veterans Affairs Canada decision on disability benefits can apply to the Board for an independent review of that decision.

What kind of decisions can be appealed to the Board?

The following kinds of decisions can be appealed to the Board:

  • Disability pension
  • Disability award
  • War Veterans Allowance
  • Critical Injury Benefit
  • Special awards (Exceptional Incapacity Allowance; Attendance Allowance; Clothing Allowance)

How do I apply to the Board?

If you are considering appealing a Veterans Affairs Canada decision to the Board, you should contact the Bureau of Pensions Advocates (BPA) to discuss your case. The BPA is an organization of lawyers who offer free legal representation to Veterans when they come to the Board. Some Veterans organizations, such as the Royal Canadian Legion, also provide free representation.

Your representative will make the application to the Board on your behalf.

Review

What is a Review hearing?

The Review hearing is the first level of redress offered by the Board. It is the Veteran's only opportunity in the disability benefits adjudication process to appear before decision-makers and tell their story in their own words.

Review hearings are conducted by panels of two Board Members in locations across the country. Here, the Veteran and their representative have the opportunity to present evidence and arguments, give oral testimony, and bring witnesses in support of the case. Board Members will listen and ask questions to clarify the case and to help them make a fair and informed decision. The Board's process is non-adversarial, which means no one is arguing against the Veteran or defending the Veterans Affairs Canada decision under review. Hearings are recorded, and this audio recording is made available to the Veteran upon request.

Veterans have access to free legal counsel through the Bureau of Pensions Advocates (BPA), and are reimbursed for their travel costs to attend their hearings.

What kind of evidence do I need?

Visit our Evidence Requirements page for detailed information on this subject.

What happens after the Review hearing?

After the hearing, Board Members discuss the information and arguments of the case to make a decision. They conduct a thoughtful analysis of all available information (i.e. oral testimony, medical reports, opinion evidence from experts, written statements, etc.) and discuss the merits of the case, bearing in mind the requirement to resolve any doubt in the weighing of evidence in favour of the Veteran. If the two panel members disagree, the decision most favourable to the Veteran stands.

How long does it take to receive a Review decision?

The Board is required by law to prepare written reasons to inform Veterans of how and why the decision has been made. These are written by the Board Members who heard the case, processed at the Board's office in Charlottetown, and usually mailed within six weeks of the hearing. This time is needed to ensure decisions are well-reasoned and clearly written.

How long does the Review process take?

On average, it takes 6 months from the time your representative submits your Review application to the Board until you receive a decision.

How do I request a Review Hearing?

If you are considering appealing a Veterans Affairs Canada decision to the Board, you should contact the Bureau of Pensions Advocates (BPA) to discuss your case. The BPA is an organization of lawyers who offer free legal representation to Veterans when they come to the Board. Some Veterans organizations, such as the Royal Canadian Legion, also provide free representation.

Your representative will make the application to the Board on your behalf.

What if I am dissatisfied with my Review decision?

If you are dissatisfied with your Review decision, you can request an Appeal hearing which is the second and final level of redress.

Appeal

What is an Appeal hearing?

While the legislation does not permit oral testimony at this level, the Appeal hearing provides a further opportunity for a Veteran, through their representative, to submit new information and make arguments in support of their case.

Appeal hearings are conducted primarily in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island by panels of three Board Members who did not hear the same case at Review.

Appeal decisions are final and binding.

What kind of evidence do I need?

Visit our Evidence Requirements page for detailed information on this subject.

What happens after the Appeal hearing?

After the hearing, Board Members discuss the information and arguments of the case to make a decision. They conduct a thoughtful analysis of all available information (i.e. medical reports, opinion evidence from experts, written statements, etc.) and discuss the merits of the case, bearing in mind the requirement to resolve any doubt in the weighing of evidence in favour of the Veteran.

How long does it take to receive an Appeal decision?

The Board is required by law to prepare written reasons to inform Veterans of how and why the decision has been made. These are prepared at the Board's office in Charlottetown and usually mailed within six weeks of the hearing. This time is needed to ensure decisions are well-reasoned and clearly written.

How long does the Appeal process take?

On average, it takes 4 months from the time your representative submits your Appeal application to the Board until you receive a decision.

How do I request an Appeal Hearing?

If you are considering appealing your Veterans Review and Appeal Board Review decision, you should contact the Bureau of Pensions Advocates (BPA) to discuss your case. The BPA is an organization of lawyers who offer free legal representation to Veterans when they come to the Board. Some Veterans organizations, such as the Royal Canadian Legion, also provide free representation.

Your representative will make the application to the Board on your behalf.

What if I am not satisfied with an Appeal decision?

If you are dissatisfied with a final-and-binding Appeal decision, you can apply to the Board for a Reconsideration (i.e. a reopening of the case) if new, credible, and relevant evidence comes to light at a later date, or if an error in fact or law is found in the Appeal decision.

If you have exhausted all your redress options at the Board and remain dissatisfied, you have the right to apply to the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of the decision.

Other

Can I have my file referred back to the Minister/Department?

As per sections 18 and 26 of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board Act, the Board has full and exclusive jurisdiction to hear reviews and appeals of disability pension and award decisions made by Veterans Affairs Canada.

To preserve the independence of the appeal process, Sections 85 and 86 of the Pension Act and the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Compensation and Re-establishment Act, respectively, prohibit the Minister/Department from considering an application that has already been heard by the Board. However, these sections allow the Board to give permission to the Minister/Department to reconsider a matter in exceptional circumstances where the requester has given a clear justification for a new first-level decision.

Here are some examples of why the Board has given this permission:

  • Changes in medical-scientific understanding of the causation of a condition;
  • Changes in legislation;
  • A new basis for, or issue in an application that has not yet been considered by the Minister/Department; and
  • Relevant new jurisprudence.

This exceptional process is not a remedy for Veterans who are dissatisfied with the Board's decisions or who have new evidence to support their case. The options for recourse for these Veterans would depend on the level of the last Board decision, and may include applying for an Appeal hearing or a reconsideration (based on new evidence or an error in fact or law).

Click here for more information.

What is a compassionate award? Am I eligible to apply for one?

Compassionate awards are made under section 34 of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board Act, and are an extraordinary remedy that fall outside the usual appeal process.

A Veteran with an honourable release can apply for a compassionate award if they have exhausted redress at the Board for a single application/medical condition, and if there is a connection between the service and the circumstances resulting in their financial need.

The Board has issued a leading and persuasive decision that reviews the legislation and sets out the criteria for compassionate awards. The decision identifies a set of principles that will tend to be applied by the Board when considering these applications. You can read the summary here and the full decision here.

If you think you might be eligible to apply for a compassionate award, you should contact your representative for advice.

When does the Board obtain an independent medical opinion?

When Board members hear a case, they may identify a gap or issue in the medical evidence brought forward by the Veteran. In this situation, their first step is to raise it with the representative and ask them to address it. It is the Veteran’s responsibility to provide evidence to establish their case, and representatives have resources to help them with this.

If the Board members still feel that the gap or issue is unresolved, they may decide to obtain an independent medical opinion. Section 38 of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board Act allows the Board to do this. It is a discretionary authority, which means it is up to the Board to decide whether it needs this kind of additional information to help clarify medical evidence in individual cases.

An independent medical opinion may be helpful in a case involving:

  • A specialized area of medicine not ordinarily seen by the Board;
  • A new type of application or medical condition; or
  • An ambiguity raised by the evidence.

How are independent medical opinions used?

When the Board asks for an independent medical opinion in a Veteran’s case, it identifies specific issue(s) and questions related to that Veteran’s unique facts and circumstances. The expert’s opinion, then, is a review of the Veteran’s case/documentation: it is not generally applicable to other Veterans and does not represent general medical information.

Before accepting an independent medical opinion as evidence in the file, the Board shares it with the Veteran and their representative and gives them an opportunity to make arguments and/or submissions on the issue.

Click here to read independent medical opinions requested by the Board.

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