On November 17, 2021, the VA started mailing out notices to hundreds of thousands of disabled veterans. The notices were court-ordered due to the recent Beaudette v. McDonough case. They let veterans know they could be eligible for Caregiver Program reinstatement, back pay, or higher benefit amounts.
The groundbreaking April 2021 Beaudette v. McDonough decision means veterans can now appeal VA decisions on the Caregiver Program to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
VA denies around 88% of Caregiver Program applications. Before the court’s recent decision, veterans had little to no say in VA’s often erroneous decision to reject or terminate Caregiver Program benefits.
About Beaudette v. McDonough
Jeremy Beaudette participated in five Afghanistan and Iraq combat tours during his ten years with the Marine Corps. He was rendered legally blind after repeated concussions and traumatic brain injury and was assigned a 100% disability rating.
Jeremy and Maya applied for Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) benefits. PCAFC is a VA program offering benefits to disabled veterans who require a personal caregiver, have at least a 70% disability rating, and were injured during service before May 7, 1975, or after September 11, 2001.
In 2013, VA approved PCAFC benefits for Jeremy and Maya, who then was able to stop working and care for Jeremy full-time.
In 2017, VA requested that Jeremy schedule a medical exam. But Jeremy had just come out of two surgeries and needed more time to recover before going out. VA wouldn’t allow a delay and removed Jeremy and Maya from the PCAFC program. It would not allow the Beaudettes to appeal the decision.
The couple sought other forms of VA benefits with no luck. In July 2020, they sued VA Secretary Denis McDonough, arguing they and other disabled veterans and caregivers should have the right to appeal PCAFC decisions to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
In April 2021, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) held that the Beaudettes had “established an indisputable right to Board review” for themselves and other veterans. The court cited the Veterans’ Judicial Review Act, which gives veterans the right to appeal VA decisions.
The court ordered VA to notify veterans of their new right to appeal. Veterans who have received a decision about Caregiver Program benefits before September 28, 2021, should be getting a notice in the mail.
VA started mailing out notices on November 17 and will continue through June 2022. VA says it’s staggering the notices to be able to better handle the workload.
The court will appoint class counsel to represent veterans who’ve been rejected or removed from the Caregiver Program and weren’t allowed to appeal.
On December 1, 2021, Secretary McDonough told the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs that VA is hiring 2,300 additional staff to help improve consistency and ensure the PCAFC program is operating the way Congress intended. “Eight in ten people being denied is not what you intended,” said Secretary McDonough.
VA is Fighting the Beaudette v. McDonough Decision
In true form, the VA is fighting the court’s ruling. On December 3, VA filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, asking it to reverse the decision. The court’s ruling could boost VA benefits for veterans by millions of dollars.
Regardless, the ruling stands. Veterans now have the right to appeal PCAFC decisions to the Board.
How To Appeal a VA PCAFC Decision
Veterans do not need to receive a notice to appeal a PCAFC decision. You can appeal anytime.
Veterans wanting to appeal a Caregiver Program decision have a few options. First, you need to note the date that VA issued your decision. If you can’t find the date of your PCAFC decision(s), you can request this information using VA Form 10-306.
If your decision was issued before February 19, 2019, you’ll need to submit VA Form 10-307 to the Veterans Affairs Evidence Intake Center, or go through the VHA clinical review process.
If your decision was issued on or after February 19, 2019, you have a few options. You can:
- Appeal through the VHA clinical review process,
- File a supplemental claim,
- Request a higher-level review, or
- Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
VA asks that supplemental claims and requests for higher-level review be submitted to the Veterans Affairs Evidence Intake Center. Requests for appeals to the Board should be sent to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.