The heartbreaking anniversary of 9/11 brings to mind a less well-known event that continues to impact Veterans. Ever since the Veterans Claims Adjudication Commission (VCAC) issued its recommendations almost 20 years ago, the thought that Veterans should have less time – not more – to file claims and responses has been as evergreen as Texas cedar. And just as much of a nuisance.
Veterans, be warned. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has already moved one step closer to reducing its backlog by breaking your back. The VA continues to be busy figuring out ways to lighten its backlog of unexamined and pending claims by taking away rights and getting you to do their work. One goodie they added this year is the so-called “Intention to File a Claim” form.
Before March 24, 2015, you could easily initiate your benefits process by simply writing a statement on a piece of paper. It’s not a figure of speech to say those days are gone forever. If you do not use a standard-issue VA form, your requests will not be processed or considered.
What if you don’t have all the paperwork necessary to file a completed claim? VA has created the “Intention to File a Claim” form (VA Form 21-0966). You must use VA Form 21-0966 to alert VA of your intention to file a claim. Telling them, writing them a formal letter, sending them a formal e-mail, nothing will get you in the system unless you file an actual claim, or put a marker down with VA Form 21-0966.
What does filing an “Intention to File a Claim” do for you? Mostly, it buys you one year to get together the paperwork you need in order to file an actual claim. It makes sense to file an “Intention to File a Claim” as soon as possible so your benefits can be calculated from the earliest possible date. The frustrating thing for you is that, prior to March 24, 2015, even a submitted hospital or doctor’s record could informally establish the basis for making a benefits claim. VA could and should have used an internal system to capture these incoming informal requests. Now, rather than look at the evidence it has, VA is placing the burden on you to complete an “Intention to File a Claim” and make sure you follow it up within one year with the appropriate additional standardized form.
Use of a special form is considered a best practice by VA. It is true. Having a form that limits the amount of information provided by a Veteran and puts some standard, often-repeated information (like your name) in one place so bureaucrats can easily find it likely does give a marginal boost to efficiency. But, you know the next step. Once they’ve trained you to do examination, VA will impose on you the production metrics it should place on employees. That means, instead of a year, you’ll likely get six months, or maybe just three months, to research and respond to VA notices. Or be kicked out forever.
Given the gamesmanship VA is playing with your benefits, one approach is to treat your claim like an investment. Money managers say you should start your day doing one thing every day that just benefits you. So, every day you are able, why not look at reviewing your claim package as an investment? Even if you can only find one document every couple of days, or only feel well enough to organize information once every six weeks, it makes a difference.
If organizing and responding feels like a job, it is. You’re doing VA’s job for VA. But, the sad fact is that if you don’t do the work now, you may never receive benefits to which you have already paid with your service, health, and well-being.
Here are links to some other important forms you have to use now. (Note: The “EZ” tag is VA’s cleverness, not ours.)
- Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits – VA Form 21-526EZ
- Application for Pension – VA Form 21-526EZ
- Application for Dependent and Indemnity Compensation, Death Pension, And/Or Accrued Benefits – VA Form 21-526EZ
- Notice of Disagreement – VA Form 21-0958
If you believe we can assist you, don’t hesitate to call The Law Office of Robert B. Goss, P.C. at 877-425-4838 or at: https://www.attorneyforveterans.com/contact-us.html