Standardized forms: What’s this new claims process all about?

And who does it affect?


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You may have received an email from VA last week announcing its new “standardized forms” claims process. I know I did—I deleted it without reading.

A few days later, I wondered how many of my own battle buddies and former soldiers had done the same, and if so, where would that lead them—or their own former soldiers and battle buddies—come claim time?

These questions, and more, influence my approach to digital communications. As a social media administrator for the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Web Communications team, it’s my job to scour the digital frontier and deliver VA benefits news and services to our Veterans and their dependents and survivors. One of the ways my team reaches Veterans—and media and influencers and advocates who reach those we’re not connected to—is through interactive events.

Early this week, we held a Twitter Town Hall to discuss standardized forms. Although you can read the highlights from that event in an easily digestible Storify right here, a longer version of that content appears below.

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So, what are standardized forms?

My colleague, Cat Trombley, wrote about this recently in this very space. To be even more blunt, though, a standardized form is just a formal document that requires basic information.

When I turned 16, I applied for my driver’s license on DMV form DL 44. At 20, when I enlisted into the US Army, I applied on form DD 4. Later, when I got married, my wife and I applied for marriage in our state on form VS 117. Before it was available online, I paid my mortgage (obtained through a standardized form from my lender) with a check (standardized) obtained via my banking institution. When I bought a car, when I enrolled my children in school, when I applied for a credit card, and in 2010 before I worked for VA, when I enlisted the assistance of a Veterans Service Organization who helped me apply for service-connected disability compensation from VA, I did all these things via standardized forms.

Whoa, wait, what? You used a standardized form in 2010 to apply for VA compensation?

Yes, but at the time, it wasn’t required. There used to be multiple ways to file a claim. Now there’s just one form.

So, why is it required now?

VA has to be better. It’s what you expect and deserve. I often tell people, “I’m a Veteran, too. Your VA is also my VA, and I know what kind of VA I want.”

The kind of VA I want began its transformation in 2010. Standardized forms are the latest result of this transition, and they help Veterans provide the necessary info that VA needs to quickly and accurately decide their claims.

But why so sudden? Couldn’t VA have given us some more time?

Actually, VBA proposed the rule in 2013. The final rule was published in September 2014 with a six-month implementation, which puts us to now.

So, what’s new?

Technically, the process isn’t new, but there are some implementations that are now required. Functionally, the “Intent to file” replaces the old, inefficient “informal claim.” An informal claim was just any old piece of paper a Veteran sent to VA to establish that they intended to file a claim. This locked in their claim date, but it also led to frustration and delays. The new Intent to File process similarly preserves the Veteran’s claim date, only now it requires basic information.

What about my pending claim? Do I need to refile?

No. If you filed before March 24, 2015, it does not affect your pending claim.

However, if you receive a compensation decision on or after March 24, 2015, and if you disagree with that decision, you will have to file a Notice of Disagreement form (21-958) to appeal that decision if one was provided to you. These forms are not new, but they are now required if you choose to appeal. VA will mail this form with all claim decision letters.

So, how does this help me?

Standardized forms make your VA more efficient. A more efficient VA will get you a quicker and more accurate decision on your claim.

OK, but how do I do that?

Start by clicking this link.

What if I need help?

You can request (free) assistance from a Veterans Service Organization. You can request one in eBenefits, find contact information for one in your area here, or walk into your local VA Medical Center to talk with one (your VAMC is probably on Facebook).  Or, you can ask me here, or in the comments below.

Anything else I need to know?

Spread the word. Inform your friends and family members and battle buddies. Utilize VBA’s helpful tools and tutorials. Oh, and don’t delete those emails without reading them!  🙂

Author

Jason Davis

Jason Davis served five years in the Army’s 101st Airborne, including two combat tours to Iraq.

Comments

  1. carlos fernandez    

    This is just another way to rip off the veterans of their benefits. It has been in the works for a while, called the trojan horse. You delay the filing process,
    no back pay from date of filing. Not only will the old claims get lost in the shuffle but they have further pushed many veterans out of their benefits with this change by reducing veteran benefits or their percentages. They are violating their own time frame and age rules and taking advantage of veterans that do not know the process. They are telling va doctors not to fill out the DBQ forms, now they are saying only qualified va disability doctors can only fill the out, good luck finding one. The are moving doctors and nurses around and placing people in their place that deny everything they have wrong with them. Look at the system, open your eyes and watch them work taking your benefits away. This has been in the works for a while. Im sure i will get another C n P after wrting this. I get a C n P everytime i speak up. Just had my 7th C n P.

  2. Nuuese Passi    

    I would like to learn on this form thirteen years I was 100% temporary and in 2014 in Oct. I received a 100% permanent it was affected on Nov 11, 2011 and now I don’t know what to do if I have to wait for a year or wait until I die and then they answer it back but I would like to learnmore about this standard form. Thank you very much for the information may god bless you.

    1. Jason Davis    

      Carlos, as I explained to you on the VBA FB post, the old process worked the same way as the new process. In the old process, a Veteran finds a paper or napkin or whatever, writes his name on it, says he wants compensation, then he mails that to VA. The new process works the same way except a Vet now has to use the standard intent to file form instead of a napkin. Both processes lock in the date of claim. Both processes could not start until evidence was later submitted by the Veteran.

      There are no rules or laws prohibiting VA doctors from filling out DBQs. If you encounter one who will not, then go to your VAMC’s Patient Advocate.

    2. Jason Davis    

      Nuuese,

      If you’d like more information, please click the many links I provided inside the blog post above. 🙂

  3. dan flesh    

    Bull Hockey! The VA has a duty to assist and this is just another way for the VA to get around that. What was wrong with the old system? Really nothing, except VA employees who took notices of claims and actual claims and put the down a rabbit hole. So now, once again, the VA will find a way to not honor a legitimate claim.

    Read what veterans with claims, VSOs and others are saying on veteran self help and blog sites. You make it sound like you are doing the vet a favor. After 50 years, us Vietnam vets know this is just another way of delay, deny and hope you die.

    By the way, Anything else you need to know? Yes there is Mr. Davis. You (meaning the VA) have lost the trust of millions of veterans – gain back our trust. The article said you served two tours in Iraq. If you did have a combat MOS, then you know you depend on your fellow soldiers when the SHTF, I felt the same in Vietnam. The VA seems more like the enemy then an ally – that is what you should be working on.

    1. Jason Davis    

      Dan,

      Part of regaining that trust back is being open and honest and up front. Just as I am with my own friends and family and battle buddies. I came to VA because I wanted to change the way VA talks to Veterans. Here I am, a government employee, personally addressing you. As a Veteran who hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to be on the outside, I think that’s pretty neat.

      Regarding your first two paragraphs, I understand your frustration. I understand why some people are cynical. I can tell you that those accusations are false. The old system was slow, inefficient, and often led to delays and errors. The standardized process has shown to be vastly superior.

      I agree with the second part of your last sentence. There’s a lot of moving parts right now, more than this department has ever seen in one time period. I’m an ally, and so are the unseen, unheard with whom I work.

      – Jason Davis
      13F, 101st ABN 01-06

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