Improving case review for veterans’ attorneys

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) provides over 5 million veterans and their families with disability benefits each year. Tens of thousands of those veterans, however, face a lengthy, multistage appeals process that can be confusing to navigate. If their appeal reaches the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (the “Court” for short), veterans typically seek legal representation from an attorney with expertise in the nuanced complexities unique to veterans law.

To argue a veteran’s case, attorneys need to first make sense of all the historic records in a veteran’s case file, thoroughly reviewing every page of every document — typically thousands of pages per case. The disability history for a Court appeal is lengthy and often complicated — with military service dating years or even decades prior, and complex medical issues like mental health conditions, combat injuries, and exposure to hazardous substances.


When we partnered with Bergmann & Moore, a law firm run by former VA attorneys and one of the largest to focus exclusively on veterans disability appeals, their attorneys lacked technology to fit their specific needs — relying instead on cumbersome manual processes.

Our challenge: help attorneys easily and accurately review case files — so the veterans and families they represent can put their best foot forward before the Court.

“We are seeing [the case file] the way VA sees it…Precision on knowing what a document is and when it was received is very important.”

- Bergmann & Moore Attorney


From the beginning, we took a user-centric approach, knowing any future solution needed to address the real pain points, tasks and needs of attorneys (our eventual end users). We sat with attorneys to understand how they work, exploring questions like:

  • What does the case review process look like from beginning to end?
  • What do attorneys need to complete their task?
  • Who and what systems (digital or non-digital) are used, and for what?
  • What does success look like? What could help attorneys do their task better?

Some of the specific pain points we heard included:

  • The case file is disorganized — VA provides the entire case file as a single PDF, without labeling or delineating where documents start and end — and sometimes has formatting errors that aren’t caught until hours into review
  • It isn’t user-friendly — the PDF file has attorney notes as bookmarks that are hard to read, and a non-intuitive user interface
  • Attorney collaboration is inefficient — attorneys have to pass stacks of paper/hand-written case notes, or the large PDF record (requiring VPN/no cloud access) when they need to work on the same case
  • It’s cumbersome to find specific details efficiently, requiring manual searches to find or cross-reference information about the case history (like the veteran’s rating history or the date VA received a piece of evidence)

“In a PDF you get this jumble of things…Adjudicate [is] a far more ordered process, you can sort, pull them by receipt date…You know exactly where documents start and end.”

- Bergmann & Moore Attorney


Insights uncovered through attorney shadowing, along with our team’s deep familiarity with VA systems and processes, allowed us to quickly and strategically hone in on a solution.

Ultimately, Coa designed and launched Adjudicate, a document reader adapted from open-source software used by VA’s own appeals attorneys (Caseflow).

In addition to human-centered design principles and practices, our development strategy included:

  • Seamlessly integrating with Bergmann & Moore’s existing practices
  • Securely storing data to protect veteran records
  • Using best practice authentication standards
  • Creating a persistent case record while minimizing storage costs

We incorporated attorney feedback throughout the project, making iterative improvements along the way. We also added features (like custom document tags), performance enhancements (like speed, no longer beholden to VPN), and integrations specific to Bergmann & Moore’s ways of working.

Since launch, adoption has been nearly universal. Adjudicate has now served the law firm for over 5 years — even enabling the office’s unexpected shift to remote work during the pandemic.

Project outcomes

Active users today
Pages reviewed in 4 years
50 million
Adoption rate
Over 90%

User value

Relevant case review features: The ability to tag, take notes, see revision history, and visualize the record in Adjudicate significantly improves attorneys’ ability to understand, find and cross-reference information they need from a veteran’s record.

Case history in context: By providing a record that is easily compared to VA’s (leveraging open-source technology), and with all the same document metadata, attorneys have more insight into VA’s prior decisions.

Quality checks: Adjudicate allows attorneys to catch document upload issues (e.g., if something in the record is unreadable), rather than starting from scratch if they only notice it midway through reviewing the consolidated PDF (or lengthy paper case).

Services & skills

Tech stack
Front-end: React, Redux, Webpack, US Web Design Standards
Back-end: Python, PostgreSQL, Elasticsearch
Infrastructure: AWS, Docker, Kubernetes, AWS Step Functions
CI/CD: Git, GitHub, GitHub Actions
Monitoring and analytics: Sentry, Google Analytics

Agile methods
User-centered design approach; research with end-user attorneys to define the problem, and prioritize needs
Released changes iteratively over two-week sprints, using continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) practices.

"[Adjudicate] is critical to what we do. We could not do our work without it."

- Bergmann & Moore Attorney