VA Proposes Standardization in Disability Claims Process
Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) March 4, 2014 – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has proposed that veterans use standardized forms to submit disability claims.
This is an idea that would seem in step with the desire to streamline and modernize the process. However, the proposal has veterans groups concerned that many former members of the military will not be able to navigate the new system.
Traditionally, veterans have been able to submit claims in a variety of ways, including through simple, handwritten notes. The claim becomes the initial point for retroactive pay reference when and if the filing veteran’s claim is approved.
“The standard means of filing a claim for benefits involves completing and mailing to one’s local VA office the so-called Veterans Application for Compensation and/or Pension,” said James G. Fausone, a prominent Northville, Michigan attorney who specializes in legal help for veterans. “It is always helpful to attach any supporting evidence, such as medical records, to the application.”
The VA wants to dispense with the so-called “informal claim process” that veterans employ when they submit a handwritten note in favor of online or standard paper forms. The agency says the measure will help it catch up with its 400,000 backlogged claims. But such a mandate would mean that the claim period would not begin with receipt of a handwritten note.
Some veterans groups are arguing that, as a result, those who use the Internet will be rewarded at the expense of others. “We have concerns because the average age of the American veteran is 64 years old, and the 2010 census reported that 55 percent of Americans 65 and older do not have regular access to the Internet,” said Zachary Hearn, deputy director of benefits for the American Legion.
For many veterans, the VA’s proposal may become an irritating burden requiring additional detail and paperwork. But legal experts advise that the claims process is inherently complicated. That argument is particularly compelling in circumstances when a rejected claim must be appealed — in which case, the help of an attorney could be pivotal.
“Pursuit of your appeal without experienced legal counsel severely reduces your prospects for success before the court,” Fausone said. “Over 75 percent of all cases resolved at court in 2008 were represented by legal counsel.”
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