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Veterans must use these standardized forms offered online, at VA offices or through service organizations. If they send an informal claim, VA will respond with a letter telling them the proper steps and their effective claim date will not start until they fill out the standard forms. They will not, however, send the actual paperwork, which veterans’ advocates say needlessly adds time to the process.

Veterans must use these standardized forms offered online, at VA offices or through service organizations. If they send an informal claim, VA will respond with a letter telling them the proper steps and their effective claim date will not start until they fill out the standard forms. They will not, however, send the actual paperwork, which veterans’ advocates say needlessly adds time to the process. (Stars and Stripes)

WASHINGTON — Two more national veterans groups have filed suit to stop a new Department of Veterans Affairs disability claims process, the second such suit filed since March.

The lawsuit, filed by Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars in the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, claims that a VA policy doing away with a decades-old informal claim process will unfairly impact older and disabled veterans.

“To me, it discourages people from using the system, it creates roadblocks,” Disabled American Veterans National Service Director Jim Marszalek said.

A separate lawsuit aimed at restoring the informal claims process was filed in late March by American Legion, AMVETS, Military Order of the Purple Heart, the National Veterans Legal Services Program and the Vietnam Veterans of America. Marszalek said his organization waited to file because they wanted to do more research. He said the two lawsuits may yet be combined during the court process.

In the past, veterans were able to start a claim simply by putting in writing that they intended to file for service-connected disability compensation. Even a scrap of paper with this intent delivered to the VA would lock in their date to receive retroactive compensation if their claim is successful.

Now, however, veterans must use standardized forms offered online, at VA offices or through service organizations. If they send an informal claim, VA will respond with a letter telling them the proper steps and their effective claim date will not start until they fill out the standard forms. They will not, however, send the actual paperwork, which veterans’ advocates say needlessly adds time to the process.

A backlog of disability claims has dogged the VA for years and while the agency has significantly reduced the number of claims pending for more than 125 days, some critics say this has been done partly by denying more claims and sending them to the appeals process. As more claims are closed, the appeals backlog has been growing.

VA officials have said the new system will get veterans their benefits more quickly and said insinuating that disabled veterans cannot fill out paperwork is insulting.

According to numbers the VA used to get the rule change approved, about half of all veterans filing claims or appeals used the informal system before the change.

Druzin.heath@stripes.com Twitter: @Druzin_Stripes


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