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Veterans group criticizes new VA benefit, appeal forms

The Department of Veterans Affairs, in an effort to streamline its claims process, launched a “standardized forms” requirement this past week for veterans seeking disability benefits and filing appeals.

The new requirement, which took effect Tuesday, has drawn criticism, however, from the Disabled American Veterans. The group, chartered by Congress, is concerned that the change goes against the VA’s core values because many veterans will lose benefit opportunities.

“Without a considerable transition period, such an abrupt change jeopardizes the effective date for many veterans’ claims. VA does not currently plan to send these veterans the proper application in response,” according to a statement from the Disabled American Veterans national office.

“We believe this will restrict some veterans who are unable to acquire or use these new standardized forms — many who have precious little time to waste due to the nature or severity of their injury or illness,” the statement reads.

The VA contends that forms, filed online, allow veterans to provide the agency with clear statements about symptoms and conditions for which they seek benefits.

“Standardized forms will allow the Reno Regional Office to provide faster and more accurate decisions to our Veterans, their families and survivors,” said Terri Beer, who has been the office’s acting director since Ed Russell was placed on administrative leave.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., who serve on Veterans Affairs committees, called for Russell’s ouster last year in the aftermath of poor performance reports on claims processing and backlog reduction issues at the Veterans Benefits Administration Reno Regional Office.

Beer, meanwhile, said in a news release that standardized forms “are essential to better serve veterans, build more efficiency into VA’s processes and bring us in line with other government agencies such as the Social Security Administration.”

But the Disabled American Veterans noted that until Tuesday veterans could use any written communication, “be it an email or a handwritten note on plain paper to establish their claim. VA will now disregard these types of communications, and instead send claimants an explanation of the new rules.”

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