Congressman Rick Nolan

Representing the 8th District of Minnesota
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U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

I'm Ready to Open a Casework File

1. I just received a letter asking for more evidence, but they have everything. What do I do now?

The letter you received is called the Veterans Claims Assistant Act Letter (VCAA). The law requires the VA to send you a VCAA. The VCAA explains to a veteran exactly what the process is that he or she has embarked on with the VA. This letter may also ask a veteran if he or she has any further evidence to provide. If you do not have any more evidence, fill out the attached page and check the box stating you have no further documentation. Then send the letter back to your VA Regional Office as soon as possible. The VA stops processing your claim for 30 days to allow you time to respond to the VCAA. The sooner you return the VCAA’s attached form, the sooner The VA will resume processing your claim.

2. I filed my claim over a year ago and I still haven’t received a decision. What’s going on?

Unfortunately, due to the VA claims backlog, it can take an average of 300 days to process a disability claim. However, I would be pleased to initiate a congressional inquiry on your behalf with the VA to obtain a status update regarding the processing of your claim. Please fill out the casework form or call my Duluth office at (218) 464-5095 for more information on the process.

3. I sent the VA my Notice of Disagreement over 2 years ago and I still haven’t been called in for a hearing. What’s the situation?

On average, the processing time for traditional appeals lasts 3-5 years. If you decided on the Decision Review Officer (DRO) process, the VA will be able to process your appeal more quickly because a DRO has the authority to render a new decision on your claim. In the event you feel the decision of the DRO is not sufficient the VA allows for a second appeal to the Board of Veteran’s Appeals (BVA). This traditional appeal process provides an opportunity to be heard in front of an administrative law judge; however it is important to note that these hearings can take quite a bit of time to be scheduled due to the expansive pending claims backlog.

The average processing time for traditional appeals is 3-5 years. However, if you elected for the Decision Review Officer (DRO) process, the VA will process your appeal more quickly. A DRO has the authority to render a new decision on your claim. If you still disagree with his decision, the VA allows you to appeal again to the Board of Veteran’s Appeals (BVA). The BVA appeal process, also known as the traditional appeal process, provides an opportunity for a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. Please be aware that these hearings take a significant amount of time to be scheduled due to the pending claims backlog.

4. The veteran in my life (father, husband, mother, wife) passed away while waiting for their claim to be completed. Can it be continued in some way?

Despite the passing away of loved ones who served in conflicts abroad, a benefit claim does not expire after the death of a claimant. A great first step would be to contact your Veterans Service Organization to discuss your options during this situation. In most cases however a spouse or dependent can simply fill out VA Form 21-0847, “Request for Substitution of Claimant Upon Death of Claimant,” and submit it to the VA to continue processing the veteran’s claim. It is important to note that in the event benefits are granted, the spouse or dependent is only entitled to the late veteran’s accrued benefits and not their monthly compensation.

Yes. You may wish to contact your Veterans Service Organization to discuss your options at this point. However, in most cases a spouse or dependent can simply fill out VA Form 21-0847, “Request for Substitution of Claimant Upon Death of Claimant,” and submit it to the VA to continue processing the veteran’s claim. Please be aware that, if granted benefits, the spouse or dependent would only be entitled to the veteran’s accrued benefits, not his/her monthly compensation.

5. I have recently sent my appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Affairs. Is there something Congressman Nolan can do to expedite it?

Unfortunately, due to the ethical standards we adhere to as defined by the Senate Select Committee on Ethics we are unable to intervene in pending legal actions until they are resolved in the courts due to the inconvenient fact that the Court of Appeals for Veterans affairs lies within the jurisdiction of the judicial branch of the government.

The Court of Appeals for Veterans Affairs is within the jurisdiction of the judicial branch of the government. The Senate Select Committee on Ethics advises all Senators to refrain from intervening in pending legal actions until resolved in the courts.

6. I am experiencing financial hardship and need my disability claim decided. What can I do to expedite the claim?

Dealing with financial hardship as a veteran can be debilitating and stressful, however it is possible to expedite a disability claim and my office can assist you in doing so. If you can provide proof of financial hardship in the form of a notice of eviction or foreclosure, notice of repossession of a vehicle, or evidence of past due bills for essential services, my office can provide this information to the VA to help facilitate the claim process. I would be pleased to help through the initiation of a congressional inquiry on your behalf with the VA to obtain a status update. Please fill out the casework form or call my Duluth office at (218) 464-5095 for more information on the process.

If you can provide proof of financial hardship in the form of a notice of eviction or foreclosure, notice of repossession of a vehicle, or evidence of past due bills for essential services, my office can provide this information to the VA in an effort to expedite your claim. I would be pleased to initiate a congressional inquiry on your behalf with the VA to obtain a status update. Please fill out the casework form or call my Duluth office at (218) 464-5095 for more information on the process.

7. I am about to file a claim for disability, what can I do to help move it along?

For the disability claim process, the longest stage in the development stage. The length of time of this stage can be shortened by ensuring you provide your Service Treatment Records and all medial evidence that is relevant to your claim to the VA. Another option is to file a Fully Developed Claim, however this claim requires that all evidence be submitted together and up front and you must assert that you have no further evidence to provide. To remove the necessity of a Compensation and Pension Exam at a VA Medical Center, a Disability Benefits Questionnaire which can be found at https://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/dbq_ListByDBQFormName.asp can be completed by your primary physician or VA doctor.

The longest stage of the claims process is the development stage. If you can provide your Service Treatment Records and all relevant medical evidence that you wish for the VA to consider, you will reduce your claim’s development time. Additionally, you may wish to file a Fully Developed Claim. This claim requires that all evidence be submitted up front, and you must acknowledge that you have no further evidence to provide. A Disability Benefits Questionnaire (https://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/dbq_ListByDBQFormName.asp) can be completed by your primary physician or VA doctor in an effort to negate the need for a Compensation and Pension Exam at a VA Medical Center.

8. I am homeless/about to be homeless. What should I do?

The first place you should turn should be the VA Hotline for Homeless Veterans at (877) 4AID-VET. If you happen to have a pending claim with the VA, submit evidence of your situation in an effort to expedite your claim.

First and foremost, you may wish to call the VA Hotline for Homeless Veterans at (877) 4AID-VET. Additionally, if you have a pending claim with the VA, submit evidence of your situation in an effort to expedite your claim.

9. I am a veteran and have never asked the VA for help. What do I need to do to have the VA help me?

My office takes the assistance of veterans very seriously and we are happy to help with any casework regarding the VA. There are many options and resources available as well. A great place to start would be by contacting your County Veterans Service Officer in the county you reside. A comprehensive list and full directory of these officers can be found at the Minnesota Association of County Veterans Service Officers website at https://www.macvso.org/directory.aspx. The VA website at https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation Is also a good resource to examine for more information regarding this matter.