Veterans can expect the Board of Veterans Appeals to launch a nationwide availability of virtual hearing technology in 2020. This technology will allow Veterans to connect with the Board via their mobile phone or laptop when using the VA Video Connect app.
With virtual hearings, Veterans will have the choice to participate in their Board hearing from the comfort of their own home. Currently, Veterans can only participate in their Board hearing in Washington D.C., or at a VA facility with video capability. This limitation is especially challenging when the nearest VA facility is hours away or if a Veteran must travel last minute.
“Customer Service is a top priority for VA and providing access to virtual hearings supports this,” says Chairman of the Board, Cheryl Mason.
Virtual hearing technology is based off the telehealth platform, which has seen amazing results. In fiscal 2019, more than 900,000 Veterans used VA telehealth services, a 17% increase from the previous year. Whether it’s telehealth or virtual hearings, it all comes down to one thing: choice for Veterans.
The Board began testing virtual hearings in July. It collaborated testing with VA’s Office of Information and Technology. The Board also worked with Veteran Service Organizations and advocates across the country. The good results showcase how this needed technology helps Veterans.
In the past, if a Veteran had to change plans at the last minute, he or she would need to be reschedule the hearing. This results in a longer wait time.
This happened recently when a Veteran had to unexpectedly travel at the last minute. Fortunately, a Board hearing coordinator was able to help the Veteran access the proper application. They then ran the necessary connectivity checks, and instead of cancelling, the Veteran was able to proceed with a hearing. That hearing included multi-state connections, including the Veterans Law Judge (VLJ) who was in Washington, D.C. Thus, the Veteran did not have to wait longer for a hearing.
In another instance, a Veteran could not travel to the regional office for the hearing due to work and family schedule conflicts. The Veteran’s representative suggested that the Veteran try a virtual hearing, knowing that VA was currently testing that technology. The Veteran agreed and had a successful hearing via cell phone.
In early November, the Board expedited a terminally ill Veteran’s hearing request using virtual hearing technology. The Board made sure that the technology was ready and working so that the hearing could take place. The Veteran was able to testify at the hearing from a hospital bed while the Veteran’s representative was at the regional office and the VLJ was in Washington, D.C. In the end, the Veteran’s testimony was very helpful to the appeal.
With nationwide availability of virtual hearing technology on the horizon, Veterans will have greater access to Board hearings–and more choice and control in their appeals process.
For more information about the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, please visit: https://www.bva.va.gov/.
This blog was written by the Board of Veterans Appeals.