Below is a list of common terms with brief definitions, as they relate to your veterans disability benefits and the VA appeals process for denied claims.
VA jargon is full of acronyms and abbreviations. The following is short list of acronyms that are referenced within this glossary.
- BCD – Bad Conduct Discharge
- BVA – Board of Veterans Appeals
- CAFC – Court of Appeals for the Federal Court
- CAVC – Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
- DD – Dishonorable Discharge
- DRO – Decision Review Officer
- GD – General Discharge
- HD – Honorable Discharge
- NOD – Notice of Disagreement
- OTH – Discharge under Other Than Honorable Conditions
- RO – Regional Office (Also VARO – VA Regional Office)
- UD – Undesirable Discharge
- UHC – Discharge Under Honorable Conditions
- VA – Department of Veterans Affairs
- VBA – Veterans Benefit Administration
- VHA – Veterans Health Administration
Veterans Disability Glossary – VA Terms and Definitions
Active Service – Full time military service that qualifies a veteran to be eligible to receive benefits. Active service includes service:
- in one of the five branches of the military
- as a commissioned officer for the Public Health Service or other federal service administrative organizations
- as a cadet or midshipman at a military academy
- in attendance at a military academy preparatory school, if the person had an active duty commitment
- during authorized travel to or from any of the above listed types of active service
Appeal – The process of requesting the VA to reconsider a previous authorization or claim decision.
Armed Forces – United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard.
Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) – If your claim was denied by the Regional Office, the BVA is the section of the VA that reviews disability benefits and claims appeals with the purpose of issuing decisions on those appeals. The BVA consists of attorney board members. One of the members will act as an administrative judge in your appeal. The BVA can consider new evidence and even look for medical opinions on its own before making a decision on your appeal. This process averages two to two-and-a-half years.
NOTE: If your claim is denied by the BVA, you would next appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC).
Claim – A request for veterans’ benefits.
Combat Service – A status applied for a veteran who served on active duty in a theater of combat operations during a period of war recognized by the VA.
Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims ( CAVC) – The seven-member administrative court whose sole responsibility is to deal with appeals from the BVA. If your VA claim is denied here, the next step in the appeals process is the Court of Appeals for the Federal Court.
Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) – This court has jurisdiction over VA regulations, and reviews CAVC decisions. If the CAFC denies your claim, the final step in the process is to appeal to the US Supreme Court.
Decision Review Officer (DRO) – Decision Review Officers are senior technical experts authorized by the VA to uphold or overturn the original decision of your claim, based on the same evidence used during the initial review. DROs review the evidence “de novo” – meaning with fresh eyes and without deference to the previous decision makers’ determination of the claim. Additional evidence may also be considered necessary by the DRO to resolve your claim. Sometimes the DRO review is the only opportunity to speak with a live person about your claim.
- Providing medical care for veterans, and
- Paying benefits to veterans.
The veterans’ benefits the VA handles include:
- Compensation for service-related disabilities,
- Pensions to veterans or their widows, and
- Compensation to widows and families of veterans.
These responsibilities are divided between the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Veterans who need to process a claim for Veterans Benefits would deal only with the VBA.
Disability Compensation – Tax-free benefits paid on a monthly basis to a veteran by the VA due to service-connected disability.
Discharge – Determining the character of your discharge is criteria for receiving benefits. The VA states that anyone establishing veteran status for the purpose of receiving benefits must have been discharged “under conditions other than dishonorable.”
The military’s discharge classifications are as follows:
- Honorable discharge (HD)
- Discharge under honorable conditions (UHC) or general discharge (GD)
- Discharge under other than honorable conditions (OTH) or undesirable discharge (UD)
- Bad conduct discharge (BCD)
- Dishonorable discharge (DD) or dismissal
Effective Date – The date as of which the VA calculates its decision to grant, increase, reduce, suspend, or terminate benefits. Generally, the VA will look at the date the claim was received and the date that the entitlement to the benefit “arose,” and choose the later one as the effective date.
Motion to Reconsider – A request for BVA to review and reconsider its decision on an appeal.
Notice of Disagreement (NOD) – A written statement expressing dissatisfaction or disagreement with the VA Regional Office’s determination on a claim for VA disability benefits. You must file the NOD within one year of the date of the Regional Office’s decision.
Pension – A non-service-connected benefit provided by the VA. Pension is a monthly payment to supplement the income of wartime veterans with limited income and who are permanently and totally disabled or age 65 or older.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – PTSD is an acquired psychological condition that affects those who have experienced a traumatizing or life-threatening event such as combat, natural disasters, serious accidents, or violent personal assaults.
Regional Office – The local VA office where you file your initial claim for veteran’s disability benefits. There are 58 VA regional offices throughout the U.S. A claim adjudicator will review your claim and decide whether to approve or deny your claim.
NOTE: If the claim is denied by the RO, you can file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) and request that a Decision Review Officer (DRO) review your claim. If you do not receive a better decision from the DRO, you can still appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA).
Schedule for Rating Disabilities – The guide used by the VA for evaluating the severity of disabilities resulting from all types of diseases and injuries that you may have encountered due to your military service. The degree of severity of the disability is expressed as a percentage rating which determines the amount of monthly compensation. To view the schedule online, see Title 38, part 4, of the Code of Federal Regulations.
Service Connected – Service Connected Disability means a disability was incurred or aggravated during active military service. To get service connected disability compensation a veteran must show:
- The veteran’s discharge was other than dishonorable;
- The disease or injury was incurred or aggravated in the “line of duty;” and
- The disability was not a result of willful misconduct or drug and alcohol abuse.
Veteran – A person who served in the active military, naval or air services, and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.
VA – See Department of Veterans Affairs
Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) – A component of the VA that is responsible for administering the Department’s programs that provide financial and other forms of assistance to Veterans, their dependents, and survivors.
Our Veterans Disability FAQs will also help you understand many Veterans’ disability concepts and terms.
Veterans across the United States have chosen us to help them obtain their VA disability benefits. Do you have questions? We are here to help. Give us a call at 800-562-9830.