By Logan Hendrix
The days of submitting disabilities claims on scraps of paper might be ending for veterans, including more than 800,000 in Virginia.
A new proposal by the federal Department of Veterans Affairs would require veterans to use a standardized claim form. One veterans group says this will make the application process more difficult for disabled persons.
VA Spokeswoman Genevieve Billia says the current application process is inefficient. The VA must sift through all the different scraps of paper, ultimately delaying benefits to veterans and their families.
According to the VA, 400,000 veterans have been waiting more than 125 days for their informal claims to be accepted. The VA’s solution is to require veterans to fill out standardized applications, preferably electronically.
National Veterans Service Deputy Director Gerald T. Manar is concerned that abandoning the decades-long practice of filing claims simply with a piece paper will pose a hardship for some veterans.
“[The VA] is creating two classes of people: veterans who can submit things electronically, and those who can’t because they don’t have the resources or don’t have the ability to interact or drive to the VA,” said Manar.
Under the proposed change, veterans who submit to the VA electronically would begin a claim simply by providing their name, Social Security number and a number of a bank account to which the benefits can be deposited. The VA will hold the date the electronic application is submitted for up to a year until veterans provide enough evidence to complete the process. Once accepted, the VA will grant aid from the original date the claim was submitted. But retroactive pay would not apply to veterans who submit incomplete hard-copy forms.
Manar said he is worried that veterans submitting paper forms could lose months of benefits while they are corresponding with the VA.
“In our view, it’s another way for the VA to reduce the amount of work it’s receiving and make it appear it’s showing improvement when in fact it’s changing the rules that make it harder for veterans to file a claim,” said Manar.
“There’s no accountability,” he said, adding that the proposed change is “incredibly unfair” and “unnecessary.”
The VA states that veterans can access computers at the closest VA facility; for veterans in Rockbridge County, that would be about 50 miles away in Salem.
There is no set date for the proposal to be adopted. Once the VA makes a decision, the rule will be published in the Federal Register. If adopted, the changes would take effect 30 days later and apply only to future claims and appeals.