The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every corner of Alabama while disrupting the delivery of public services leading state government to innovate for resilience and sustainability. Through these challenging times, the Appeals & Review (A&R) Division of the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs (ADVA) successfully removed potential barriers to needed services by developing a virtual means for allowing veterans and their survivors to remotely attend Board of Veterans Affairs (BVA) Hearings.

The first remote BVA hearing was held the week of August 9 at ADVA’s partner organization, Still Serving Veterans, in Huntsville. The second hearing was held this week at the ADVA’s new Veterans Service Office in Shelby County. Still being new technology, the second hearing did encounter minor glitches, but ADVA A&R representative Frances Kidd and Shelby County Veterans Service Officer John Jones worked with the BVA’s tech support team to solve all issues in a timely manner.

“ADVA’s remote hearing locations allow the ADVA A&R Division to offer Vveterans, and their survivors, the opportunity to participate in the VA’s Board of Veterans Appeals hearing process closer to their homes and in a relaxed setting without reducing the overall quality of the hearing process or of the representation offered by the A&R Division’s hearing officers,” Appeals & Review Division Manager Mark Sullivan said. “These sites also offer the veteran or survivor the opportunity to hold their hearing in a shorter overall time frame than the BVA’s more traditional hearing processes. Virtual (remote) hearings are the future of this process and the ADVA is proud to be a leader in bringing this opportunity to the Veterans of Alabama.”

Like many changes experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, the ADVA A&R Division needed to think outside the box after it could no longer hold traditional, in-person BVA hearings in Montgomery as of March 2020. Previously, Veterans who were appealing a denied claim had the options to wave their hearing, have a virtual hearing from the Montgomery office, or have a face-to-face hearing with a travel board sent by the BVA.

The fully virtual hearing format using the same technology that VA uses for telehealth was implemented in April 2020. The first virtual hearings in the country were in May 2020 and the ADVA A&R Division in Alabama had its first virtual hearings in July.

Using the new technology, veterans now log in for the hearing using their own technology remotely or can coordinate to use one of ADVA locations statewide with iPads configured and provided for veterans to use. Remote locations are currently in Mobile, Shelby, and Madison counties, with three additional locations coming.

Veterans requesting more information can contact the ADVA A&R Division by calling (334) 213-3320 or by clicking here.