Sean Kendall Veterans Law Firm
Posted on Jan 21, 2014

Veterans groups have come out against VA's proposed regulations to require veterans to use standard forms to file appeals and new claims. Currently a veteran may use the new notice of disagreement form to file an appeal, but it is only optional.  The regulations I referred to in my previous post only covered appeals, now, VA is proposing that new claims also must be on a standardized form.  Thus, under the proposal, sending a letter to VA claiming benefits does not trigger a claim for benefits.  Only when the form is completely filled out will the claim be considered filed.  Thus, retroactive benefits won't be awarded from the day the benefit is claims, but rather from the date the form is filed.  

What is most Draconian about this proposal is that if the form is incomplete, it doesn't count, and a veteran will not be entitled to an earlier effective date from the date of the filing of an incomplete form.  Unless the form is filed by computer, in such a case, a veteran receives the effective date of the filing of the incomplete online form.  Fortunately, Veterans groups are against this proposal.  I think it is likely to go into effect, that is, VA will likely require the form to be completed before any work will be done.  However, I think VA will be forced to award effective dates from the date of the filing of any notice by a veteran that he or she is claiming a benefit, regardless of whether the form is complete.  

I have alreay seen this VA new reliance on forms only raise itself as an issue in several cases.  VA has refused to adjudicate claims for unemployability based on all service-connected disabilities where a veteran has not listed all disabilities on the unemployability form.  Thus, for example, where a veteran claims that PTSD, a knee disability and a hand disability prevents substantially gainful employment, but the veteran only listed PTSD and knees in box 13 of the VA's unemployability form, the Decision Review Officer's position was that unemployability had to be denied because the service-connected hand disability was not listed.  Fortunately, our office was able to get the Veterans Benefits Administration involved in this issue and they cleared with the RO that current law all service-connected disabilities must be considered, regardless of whether they are listed in box 13 of the IU form.  

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