Changes in VA Benefits Filing Rules Causes Concern

Recently, VA made changes to its rules that impact the way claims are filed and appealed in the veterans disability compensation process. Those changes are detailed here. Essentially, the rule changes create a more formalized claims system. For example, where a veteran could previously file a claim for VA benefits simply by writing a letter to the regional office, now the veteran must use a VA standard form to file his or her claim. If the veteran fails to use this form, VA may refuse to open the claim. This would impact both the length of time that the veteran has to wait to receive a decision, and the effective date for the award of benefits.

It is, of course, important that VA makes changes to its system that makes the process go faster. Simply put, it is taking too long for veterans to receive resolution in their VA claims, and something had to be done. However, many veterans’ advocates have complained that this more formalized process puts veterans at a disadvantage. Veterans may not realize that they need to fill out a specific form to file for benefits. Some, particularly those without easy access to the internet, may not be able to easily obtain the necessary forms.

Also, I mentioned that the new process could impact the date an award of benefits is made effective. If a veteran sends a letter on a piece of paper to the regional office in 2015 asking for service connection for PTSD, VA might not recognize that as the date of his claim until down the road, when he completes his application on a standard form. Hopefully, VA will promptly instruct those veterans who send in a request for benefits the “old fashioned way” that they need to complete the standard form, so that the veteran doesn’t lose out on any back benefits.

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