A Statement of the Case is an explanation given by the VA of the decision made on a Veterans case. The SOC is sent to a Veteran who had previously filed a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) on an earlier VA decision. The SOC applies to legacy cases only.
The Statement of the Case (SOC) is an important appeals document that a Veteran will get from the VA as they progress through the VA appeals process. It must be acted upon as soon as possible, as the VA will dismiss the appeal if the Veteran doesn't file a Substantive Appeal in a timely fashion. The Substantive Appeal or VA Form 9 is discussed later in this article.
SOC vs. Rating Decision: How Can You Tell Them Apart?
Many individuals find it difficult to identify the difference between a Statement of the Case and a Rating Decision. The SOC will be clearly labeled at the top as a Statement of the Case. Although it is important to recognize the difference, the timelines for appealing the two documents are dramatically different. Respondents have 60 days to file an appeal to the Statement of the Case but one year to appeal a Rating Decision. So how can you tell them apart?
- A Statement of the Case, like a Rating Decision, will be accompanied by a lengthy cover letter.
- A Statement of the Case will clearly indicate the words, “Statement of the Case” across the top header of each page.
- The Statement of Case will begin with a cover letter, which will include the essential claims or problems on appeal.
- There will be a list of evidence, which serves as a timeline of the case, beginning with when the claim was received. This is followed by a list of actions taken by the VA.
- You'll find a discussion of the relevant laws, rules, and regulations, followed by a ruling on the specific claims.
The average length of a Statement of the Case is 10 pages or more, whereas the average length of a Rating Decision is five pages. As indicated above, “Statement of the Case" appears on every page to aid in identifying the relevant information included in the papers. There are always many pages of boilerplate language that are contained in every SOC. It is important, therefore, to know where the substantive portion of the document is located, which is at the end of the document, so it can be analyzed properly.
Do All Veterans Receive a Statement of the Case?
Most of the time, the Statement of the Case will just repeat the earlier denial of the claim. But if the VA agrees with your appeal, there will be no need to produce an official Statement of Case. The VA will simply issue a favorable rating decision. In our experience, most legacy appeals receive a Statement of the Case.
However, in some cases, the Statement of the Case will be accompanied by a favorable rating decision. For instance, if a veteran filed a notice of disagreement for a rating higher than 50% for his service-connected PTSD and then submits additional evidence, the VA could issue a favorable rating decision granting him 70% for his PTSD and then issue a simultaneous SOC explaining why they are continuing a denial for a rating higher than 70%.
Typically, the simultaneous receipt of a Statement of the Case and a rating decision usually involves issues for higher ratings or earlier effective dates when there can be a partial grant but not the maximum grant of benefits. This scenario does not usually occur in claims that involve only service connection. The idea is that because the claim has not reached the maximum permissible rate, the matter remains on appeal, and a SOC will be sent in this instance.
An appeal must be continued by filing a VA Form 9, which signifies the Veteran's choice to submit his case to the Board of Veterans' Appeals for further appellate consideration.
How To Respond to Your SOC
Respond to the SOC by filling out the VA Form 9 on time and submitting it to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA Form 9 must be filed within 60 days after the date on the cover letter of the SOC or within the remainder of the one-year appeal period following the rating decision. However, in most cases, the VA does not issue a SOC prior to the expiration of the one-year period. To avoid losing your appeal, you must timely file the Form 9 before the deadline. You'll receive the VA Form 9 in the mail with your SOC.
If you desire a BVA hearing, you can request one using the VA Form 9. In addition, you should establish a case for why you believe the VA erred in its decision in your case. Your regional office may issue a "Supplemental Statement of the Case" if you submit additional evidence together with your VA Form 9, and this new material is considered by the VA when making a judgment on your claim.
What Happens While You Wait?
Your case will be sent to Washington DC for consideration by a BVA judge after the regional office receives your VA Form 9.
A second check of your case will be done by the regional office while putting together the SOC. A negative decision may be overturned at this point in the process, avoiding the need for a further appeal. But usually, additional and stronger evidence will need to be submitted.