Can a veteran obtain more than one personal hearing at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals?

On January 31, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims issued a decision in Cook v. Snyder which essentially held that 38 U.S.C. § 7107(b) allows a claimant who had a personal hearing before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) at one stage of appellate proceedings to receive another hearing before the Board during a subsequent stage of appellate proceedings, following a remand from the Court. The Court provides an historical background of Board hearings and the role they play in Board adjudications. The Court addressed, in detail, the statutory interpretation of section 7107(b) and determined that both the Secretary and the Appellant advanced grammatically plausible readings of the statute where the Secretary argued that only one hearing before the Board was allowed while the Appellant argued that more than one hearing was permitted. The Court determined that the statute’s language is not clear on this point. Therefore, the Court looked to whether VA’s implementing regulation, i.e., 38 C.F.R. § 20.700(a), interpreted the statute, and it found that the regulation did resolve the ambiguity in the statute. Because the VA regulation did not provide the necessary guidance, the Court looked to the Secretary’s interpretation to the extent that it has the “power to persuade” it of its propriety. However, the Court, understanding the VA’s nonadversarial claims system and the understanding that a claim changes and evolves at different stages of an appeal, held that an Appellant should be given the opportunity for a new personal hearing following a remand from the Court.

Here’s a link to the Court decision.