The Statement of the Case (SOC) is one of the most critical documents that you will receive from the VA as you work your way through the VA appeals process. It requires your prompt attention and, if you don’t respond in a timely manner, you risk the VA closing out your file. But many veterans don’t understand what the SOC is, what its purpose is, and what happens after you respond.
What is a Statement of the Case?
After a veteran files an appeal from a rating decision, the regional office is responsible for putting together a document that sets out all of the issues that the veteran has on appeal. It is often very long—sometimes 30 or more pages—because the VA is required to tell the veteran all of the different rules and regulations that are applicable to the case. The VA is also required to inform the veteran what evidence it considered and provide the reasons why and how it reached its decision. I always pay particularly close attention to what evidence the VA reviewed in making the decision, just to ensure nothing was overlooked or missed.
Responding to the Statement of the Case
It is absolutely essential that you reply to the SOC by completing the VA Form 9 and submitting it to the VA on time. In most cases, the deadline to complete the VA Form 9 is 60 days from the date on the cover letter of the SOC. If you miss the deadline to submit the VA Form 9, the VA will close your appeal, and you will have to start your case over. You also will miss your opportunity to present your case before a VA judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Make sure you submit the VA Form 9 before the deadline passes! The VA Form 9 is mailed to you along with the SOC.
On the VA Form 9, you have an opportunity to request a BVA hearing, if you want one. You also should make arguments as to why you think that the VA got it wrong when deciding your case. You can also submit additional evidence along with the VA Form 9 if you have it, and this will likely lead to the regional office issuing what is called a “Supplemental Statement of the Case,” in which the VA makes a decision that takes into account the new evidence that you submitted.
What Happens Next?
Once you get the VA Form 9 filed, the regional office begins the process of transferring your case to Washington DC, where a VA judge will review it.
It is worth noting that the regional office, when putting the SOC together, will take a second look at your case. Therefore, it is possible to get an unfavorable decision changed at this stage of the process and avoid the need for a further appeal.
If you have questions or need assistance responding to an SOC, we encourage you to contact our veterans disability attorneys right away. The 60 day deadline passes quickly and you have nothing to lose by requesting a free evaluation.