AG Fox Urges VA to Reevaluate Changes to Claims Processing Policy
Attorney General Tim Fox joined a bipartisan coalition of 42 attorneys general urging the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to rescind a newly-implemented policy that will result in further delays and confusion in the claims process.
In a letter submitted to Under Secretary for Benefits Paul Lawrence, the coalition asks the department to postpone and reevaluate changes made to its longstanding claims review policy while the nation faces a public health crisis. In April, the VA announced plans to rescind its decades-old policy of allowing accredited veterans service organizations to review claims decisions prior to finalization. The coalition argues that the change will further delay benefits veterans have already earned.
“The Department of Veterans Affairs has provided no justification for this substantial policy change, and has not allowed input from veterans service organizations or veterans,” Attorney General Tim Fox said. “I urge the VA to postpone implementation of such a dramatic change in the midst of a pandemic in order to allow input from these key stakeholders, and to evaluate whether there are alternative solutions that do not completely eliminate a critical step in the review process. Implementing such a significant change while people work remotely with access to fewer resources will only further complicate the VA claims process,” Fox added.
For decades, the VA has given accredited veterans service organizations (VSOs) a 48-hour period to review claims decisions prior to the department issuing its final determination. According to the VA, review by VSOs helps identify any errors or issues that may require clarification or additional discussion prior to the claim being promulgated. But in April, the VA announced the VSO review process would be rescinded, meaning that any corrections or clarifications must be made after a final determination on a claim has been issued.
In the letter, the coalition points out that review by VSOs provides the last opportunity to identify and correct errors in claims before they become part of the official record and are used as the basis to deny or diminish benefit awards. Mistakes not caught prior to promulgation can only be rectified through a lengthy and complicated appeals process, meaning veterans must continue to wait to receive the benefits they have earned. In addition, the attorneys general argue that the VA’s decision to implement the policy change comes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the VA, VSOs, and veterans are already struggling to follow existing VA policy.
Read the letter here.