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  • 14 Questions about VA Disability Compensation Benefits Claims

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    You’ve just been rated 100% disabled by the Veterans Affairs. After the excitement of finally having the rating you deserve wears off, you start asking questions. One of the first questions that you might ask is this: It’s a legitimate question – rare is the Veteran that finds themselves sitting on the couch eating bon-bons … Continue reading

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Lorraine

Ao/ihd Claim

Question

Back in Feb. 2010, after my husband had filed his claim for IHD/AO, he received what appeared to be a standard packet from the RO telling him that they had rec'd his claim and general information about what would be done with his claim, etc. However, included in the packet, was information about a new "New Pilot Program! Invitation to Join." This new program is known as Expedited Claims Adjudication(ECA)Initiative. The Seattle VA RO is one of four RO's that was selected nationwide to participate in this two-year pilot program. The VA included about 6 and a half pages of information about the project, including an Agreement and Waiver of Rights to sign.

Our Vietnam Veterans of America Service Officer told us at the time of our initial interview and filing of a claim that if my husband should receive an offer for an expedited claim, to be sure to accept the offer. After reading the 6+ pages of info, we were confused and so I called a couple of the other Vet's service organizations and they were familiar with ECA pilot program and were adamant about NOT recommending that vets sign this waiver! I called our VSO and discussed ECA with him, told him that I'd contacted other service organizations and that they weren't recommending vets sign the waiver. He allowed as how that the Viet Nam Vets and only one other organization were recommending to sign.

We didn't think that sounded like a huge recommendation. So,we got scared off and he didn't sign the waiver. Anybody else out there who has been offered this "INVITATION"????? or anybody familiar with this new program?

Lorraine

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i got one and vso in morristown tn advised not to file it put all the burden of proof on vet and also made unrealistac time frames. still have it but didn't sign.

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Tinkerer...thanks for the input. Hadn't read anything about the ECA "offer" on hadit and was curious. I didn't see how it could help us anyway when the final word hasn't come out yet.

Lorraine

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With proof of AO exposure and a documented disability on the AO presumptive list-the VA could expedite these new AO claims in a heartbeat.

The proposed regs are quite clear but they will surely screw up any retro under Nehmer.

There is still time to file comments on the new proposed regs at the Fed Register site.

I didnt see any commenters from hadit except me but I know some here use different board names.Then again I havent checked in a few days-

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The RO could expedite these claims but t hey are bound by the recipt date to work the claims. If it takes a waiver to bypass this then I am all for it, however, I am not for signing any rights away. That sounds like a trap.

J

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Back in Feb. 2010, after my husband had filed his claim for IHD/AO, he received what appeared to be a standard packet from the RO telling him that they had rec'd his claim and general information about what would be done with his claim, etc. However, included in the packet, was information about a new "New Pilot Program! Invitation to Join." This new program is known as Expedited Claims Adjudication(ECA)Initiative. The Seattle VA RO is one of four RO's that was selected nationwide to participate in this two-year pilot program. The VA included about 6 and a half pages of information about the project, including an Agreement and Waiver of Rights to sign.

Our Vietnam Veterans of America Service Officer told us at the time of our initial interview and filing of a claim that if my husband should receive an offer for an expedited claim, to be sure to accept the offer. After reading the 6+ pages of info, we were confused and so I called a couple of the other Vet's service organizations and they were familiar with ECA pilot program and were adamant about NOT recommending that vets sign this waiver! I called our VSO and discussed ECA with him, told him that I'd contacted other service organizations and that they weren't recommending vets sign the waiver. He allowed as how that the Viet Nam Vets and only one other organization were recommending to sign.

We didn't think that sounded like a huge recommendation. So,we got scared off and he didn't sign the waiver. Anybody else out there who has been offered this "INVITATION"????? or anybody familiar with this new program?

Lorraine

Katrina is also Vice President of NOVA (National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates), one of only three organizations which did submit written objections to the VA’s ECA pilot program. http://www.vetadvocates.com/

When I asked Katrina her thoughts, she replied:

"In a very basic sense, the premise of the VA’s ECA pilot program is that, in exchange for the veteran giving up (waiving) their procedural due process rights at the beginning of the claims process, the VA will attempt to make a speedier decision on their claim for VA benefits. As VA claimants already know, the VA claims process includes many, many deadlines by which the veteran has to submit evidence, or respond to a VA letter or decision. BUT, the VA has no deadlines – and this ECA pilot program does nothing to change this. The ECA simply shortens, or eliminates altogether, the veteran’s time periods by which to respond to the VA’s requests or decision.

There are several specific aspects of the ECA pilot program which concern me. First, that the veteran (or claimant) has to elect the ECA program at the beginning of the claims process is disconcerting because this means the veteran has to fully comprehend right from the get-go what he or she is getting into regarding the VA’s claims process. In other words, the VA is asking a first-time claimant (because the ECA will only be utilized for new claims) to be clairvoyant and choose up front, with little or no first-hand knowledge, to waive due process rights that they can’t possibly know whether they will want or need down the road.

Another concern is the misleading language of the ECA rule which states that a veteran will only be eligible for the ECA program if 'represented by a recognized VSO or an accredited agent or attorney at the time of electing to participate in the Initiative.' Thus, on its face, the ECA language leads one to believe the veteran will be properly counseled before giving up important due process rights. However, as the current law makes clear, a veteran cannot hire an attorney to represent him or her until after the initial Notice of Disagreement has been filed by the veteran. This is NOT at the beginning of the claims process! Thus, the veteran is left to rely on the advice of a VSO, very few (if any) of whom practice before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and understand the binding effect of waiving due process rights. Yes, the language of the ECA pilot program states that the veteran can elect to 'un-waive' these rights, but I have serious doubts the VA will be diligent in reminding the veteran about this.

My final concern mirrors many of my clients’ primary complaint with the VA claims and appeals process, which is that the VA seems bent on finding ways to avoid seriously dealing with its HUGE backlog problem. The ECA is just another example of that. Expedited means faster, but it does not equate to a better, or more thorough decision. The ECA does not include an effort on the VA’s behalf to provide a more detailed or personalized decision wherein the VA explains why the evidence submitted by the veteran does or does not satisfy the criteria necessary to grant the claim for benefits. Thus, in the end, the ECA will not improve the quality of the decision rendered by the VA, it will only speed up the time by which the veteran is denied his or her VA benefits. The unfortunate irony here is that this will only lead to a bigger backlog in the VA claims and appeals process because veterans today are smart and tenacious, and know to appeal when they have a meritorious claim."

It appears we have another VBA sideshow concocted for no real purpose other that to distract the attention of an already dazed and confused Congress. This allows the antics in the DVA 3-ring circus to continue without any interference.

Veterans across the nation will continue to be rewarded for their dedicated and meritorious service to our country with the usual VBA center ring clowns pouring out of small cars gleefully shouting, "Delay, deny, until you die!"

My advice: If you're a veteran in one of the following four VA regional offices: Nashville, Tennessee; Lincoln, Nebraska; Seattle, Washington; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and beginning December 5th 2008 you're offered an opportunity to participate in this experiment, decline. There is no advantage to you personally and any risk you may take is unlikely to benefit other veterans.

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