As our firm reported on this website in September, the Department of Veterans Affairs is attempting to streamline, under new VA secretary Robert A. McDonald, its appeals process by requiring forms such as Notice of Disagreement form 21-0958.  Additionally, the Department of Veterans Affairs is set to require, beginning in March of 2015, a standardized form for the filing of original disability claims.

Under the new regulations, VA will introduce an “Intent to File a Claim” process that, as the Providence Journal wrote last week, “gives the veteran or survivor one year to compile the necessary documentation while preserving an effective date of [informal] claim.”

So be careful, when filing a new claim for disability benefits with your VA Regional Office, to complete and submit VA Form 21-526EZ instead of filing an informal claim. As stated above, if you do file an informal claim for disability benefits with VA, be sure to file the applicable standardized form – which differs depending on whether you are filing a disability claim, claim for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, etc. – within one year of the date you filed your informal claim.

In a press release last month, Secretary McDonald stated, “We must do everything that we can to make it as fast and easy as possible for Veterans and their survivors to file for and receive an accurate decision on their claim.”

Some veterans could miss out on the benefits they deserve because the very disabilities for which they are seeking compensation might make it hard to follow the changes in VA requirements for filing and appealing claims. Thus, it will take a while to see whether VA’s quest to make the claims process “fast and easy” will have a wholly positive effect on veterans and their families – the parties who truly matter in this system. But, as Lauren Augustine, legislative associate for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said recently, simplifying the claims process seems like “a move in the right direction to creating an efficient process.”

If you have any questions about the VA’s newly required forms, or need help with your VA disability case at any step in the process, please call the office of Attorney Sean Kendall at (877) 629-1712.

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