Until the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) was established in 1988, the Nation's veterans had no court of law where they might appeal the Government's decisions on veterans benefits.

The Continental Congress and then the U.S. Congress and the States variously provided veterans benefits until 1930, when the U.S. Congress consolidated Federal entities and programs awarding veterans benefits and created the Veterans Administration, later called the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Until CAVC was established in 1988, however, VA remained the only administrative agency that operated virtually free of judicial oversight. VA's Board of Veterans' Appeals (Board or BVA) provided the final decision on a veteran's claim.

A veteran whose claim VA denied was therefore afforded no independent review of VA decisions; that veteran was therefore denied the right to go to court to challenge the decision of an administrative agency, a right afforded to other citizens challenging decisions of other administrative agencies. For decades, the House Committee of Veterans' Affairs consistently resisted the efforts of veterans and their advocates to alter VA's "splendid isolation" as the single Federal administrative agency whose major functions were insulated from judicial review.

With the influx of veterans' post-Vietnam claims in the 1970s and 1980s, however, veterans and their advocates grew more vocal in pressing for judicial review, and in 1988, veterans prevailed. On November 19, 1988, the Veterans' Judicial Review Act under Article I of the U.S. Constitution created the new veterans court, the United States Court of Veterans Appeals. On March 1, 1999, the Veterans Programs Enhancement Act of 1998 changed the Court's name to the name it now bears, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

In addition to establishing CAVC, the Veterans' Judicial Review Act also eliminated the bar to judicial review by allowing lawyers to represent veterans and their survivors, for reasonable fees, in their appeals of BVA decisions.

Moreover, more recent congressional legislation lifted the bar to paid legal representation before the VA.

CAVC is among the few Federal courts that have been created since the ratification of the Constitution. In addition, in establishing CAVC, for the sixth time in the Nation's history Congress established a court of national jurisdiction without geographical limits.