VA Disability Appeal Hearings for Incarcerated Veterans

  • Veterans who have applied for VA disability benefits are “entitled to a hearing at any time on any issue” under 38 C.F.R. § 3.103(c)(1).
  • Note that VA hearings are not required at any point during the appeal process and will significantly delay a decision on the appeal.
  • Veterans may request hearings before a Decision Review Officer (DRO) at the VA Regional Office or in front of a Veterans Law Judge from the Board of Veterans Appeals in Washington, DC. Because the VA appeals process is so lengthy, it often takes several years for the VA to schedule personal or video hearings for veterans.
  • Rest assured, though, that incarcerated veterans are still entitled to hearings on their disability claims. The VA is required to accommodate incarcerated claimants and help them develop their claims under the VA’s Duty to Assist.
  • The VA expects veterans to appear in person for all hearings including video hearings. However, the VA does not have the technology to provide hearings in jails or prisons.
  • Veterans who receive notice of a scheduled hearing during incarceration will have to request that the VA reschedule the hearing due to extenuating circumstances. The hearing will need to be rescheduled for a date after the veteran is released from jail or prison.
  • For Florida veterans, DRO hearings are scheduled at the VA Regional Office in St. Petersburg. The VA does not reimburse veterans for travel costs and the veteran must appear in person at the scheduled date and time of the hearing.
  • If a veteran has requested an in person travel board hearing before a Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) judge, the hearing will be scheduled at the St. Petersburg Regional Office. Because the Veterans Law Judge has to travel to different states, these hearings take much longer to schedule.
  • If a veteran requests a BVA video hearing, it will most likely be scheduled at the VA Regional Office. A veteran who does not live near a Regional Office or will be traveling at the time of the hearing should call the BVA Ombudsman (202) 632-4623 and ask that the video hearing be scheduled at the nearest VA medical center or Regional Office.
  • If a veteran is unable to appear in person at a hearing due to incarceration and does not want to further delay the appeal, the appointed representative may appear at the hearing in the veteran’s place and present arguments and evidence.
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