What to do when VA deliberately late mails you a notice

Shocked LookPicture this scenario.  Today is Monday, October 19, 2015.  You open your mail.  Surprise!  You have a letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  You read the letter.  It’s dated August 17, 2015.  The letter explains that you have 60-days from the date on the letter in which to respond…or else VA will reduce your benefits.  “Wait a second,” you think.  “Have I gone crazy?  Today is October 19, 2015.  Sixty days from August 17 is…(you count)…October 16th!”  The deadline has already passed!  You then scramble through the trash to find the discarded envelope.  You find the envelope.  Isn’t that something?  The letter is postmarked October 15, 2015!  What happens next?  First of all, this isn’t a made-up scenario.  On October 19, 2015, our law office received just such a letter.  Fortunately for the Veteran we represent, we know how to handle VA’s contemptible “process foul.”  But what about the Veteran who doesn’t have an attorney?

As you know, VA prohibits American Veterans from attorney representation when they file their initial claim.  Veterans can only have an attorney represent them after they’ve received a notice about their benefits and have filed a Notice of Disagreement.  That is how VA gets away with this despicable behavior.  Sending a letter which arrives in your mailbox after expiration of the VA response period almost guarantees that you are…”in a bad situation.”

Don’t let VA kick you around.  You know what would happen if a private company resorted to such outright trickery.  Level the playing field today.  If you receive a communication from VA which arrives after the response deadline stated in their letter – or with only a couple of days left in the response period – DON’T BE A VICTIM.  Contact an attorney immediately to preserve your rights and make sure VA’s dirty tricks are exposed to some daylight.

Here are three simple rules to follow, no matter what VA sends you.

Rule 1           Never ignore any communication from VA

This is not because VA is sending you happy news or has really read the information you sent to them.  No – it’s because VA never communicates to you unless they’re hoping to trap you.  VA’s communications are not intended to be models of clarity.  If you do not understand a VA communication after reading it, don’t worry.  It’s not you.  But, to ensure that you respond properly, consider obtaining legal advice from a VA-accredited attorney.

Rule 2           Always respond in writing                               

Don’t bother calling VA.  If you ever get through, you’ll never get an accurate answer.  And, although VA employees are public servants, most refuse to provide you their name and contact information.  So, if you rely on something a VA employee told you, you’ll end up sounding like you are crazy.  (“Yes, I did what the VA lady told me to do.”  “What was her name?”  “I don’t know – she wouldn’t tell me.”  “What’s her number?” “I don’t know – I called the general information line.”  “So, you followed the advice of someone you can’t identify or call back?”  “Yes, that’s right.”)

Sadly, even though VA is charged with assisting Veterans, it’s often difficult to tell that from VA’s behavior.  If you don’t communicate in precisely the language some bureaucrat has made up, VA will pretend it doesn’t understand you.

Understanding VA’s bureaucracy, its language, appreciating just how really bad things can be, and then helping fix them for you is where the Law Office of Robert B. Goss, P.C. excels.

Rule 3           Keep a copy of EVERYTHING                       

When you respond in writing, keep a copy of what you sent.  If you respond electronically, keep a screen shot.  Keep all correspondence from VA, together with the envelope it came in.  Print VA’s communications if received electronically.  If you do call VA, keep a log of when you called, the number, with whom you spoke – and detail the fact if the employee refuses to share their name – and the particulars of your conversation.

All of this record-keeping may make you feel like it’s a full-time job.  It is.  That’s one reason Veterans and their families retain an attorney.  An attorney’s office keeps track of all of this – and the office is there even when you are on vacation, or in the hospital, or working two jobs.

If you receive a letter, as we did, which is obviously intended to deny Veterans their rights, DON’T WAIT.  Contact us right away so we can assess the situation and determine the course of action which preserves and asserts your rights.

Remember – any notice from VA should not be ignored.  It won’t improve with time.  The good news is, by taking prompt, early action, you are in the best position to maintain or improve your benefits situation.  DON’T WAIT.  Contact the Law Office of Robert B. Goss, P.C. today to a FREE consultation.

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