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Get in line
The Board of Veteran's Appeals (BVA) issues a docket number once it has received your claim file from the Regional Office (RO, or VARO).

This docket  number is essentially your place in line, while you wait for the BVA to get to your claim.  It is very important, for many reasons, not the least of which is, if you need to provide additional proofs or other information, in order to prove your claim, OR IF, you end up appealing the BVAs decision to the higher US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC), your place in line at the BVA is preserved.

There are ways for veterans to have their case heard "out of order", but generally, those cases mean the veteran is on their death bed.

If you have made up your mind that an appeal is the appropriate action, obtaining the docket number is your first absolute goal in the process.  In order to get a docket number, you must first file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) with the RO handling your claim.  You will then received a letter from the VA called the "Statement of the Case" (SOC).  The SOC explains the types of proof that can be accepted for your claim, as well as listing the VA's responsibility to assist you.  The SOC will have reference your Docket Number.
Jerry Spurbeck says, "A good fact can overcome fear most days."

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