The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is one of the largest agencies in the federal government. Their budget is in the hundreds of billions of dollars, and they employ over 300,000 people to manage thousands of facilities, veterans programs and services.
The organization, headed by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, is divided into three administrative divisions:
- Veterans Health Administration
- Veterans Benefits Administration
- National Cemetery Administration
The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is responsible for non-medical programs that provide financial and other types of assistance to veterans, their surviving spouses and dependents.
The VBA’s financial assistance programs are:
- Disability Compensation – for veterans who became ill or were injured during active military service.
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation – paid to the survivors of servicemembers who died while on active duty or who died from their service-connected disabilities.
- Pensions and Enhanced Pensions – monthly monetary benefits paid to low-income veterans and spouses, and to veterans and spouses who need long-term care.
- Burial and Interment Allowances – to help cover the cost of burial and interment.
- Spina Bifida Monthly Allowance – paid to children born with spina bifida who are the children of servicemembers who served in the Republic of Vietnam or near the demilitarization zone in Korea.
- Children of Women Vietnam Veterans Born with Certain Defects – monetary compensation, healthcare and vocational training for children born with certain defects who are the children of female veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam. Other types of VBA programs include:
- Loan Guaranty
- Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment
Veterans, spouses and dependents must submit an application for VA monetary benefits, they are not automatically awarded.
Submitting a claim for monetary benefits
The VA benefits claim process, especially for monetary benefits like disability compensation and pensions, can be long and difficult. Currently, there are over 745,000 pending claims in the system currently.
Many of these claims are incomplete, submitted by veterans, spouses, or their families, without any help or guidance from a knowledgeable and experienced VA representative.
Incomplete claims require development by the VA. This is the first step in a three-part claim process (development/evidence gathering, review and decision).
During claim development, the VA collects any missing claim information. They will usually send a development letter letting you know the claim was received and asking for the additional data. Sometimes several development letters sent out over many months are needed to complete the case.
How long does it take to process a claim?
The time it takes to process a claim can range from months to years. How long it takes to process a claim depends on several factors such as:
- The type of claim that was filed
- Where the claim was submitted
- The number of pending claims already in the system
- The complexity of the case
- Submitting the correct forms
- Complete documentation
- How much time is needed to collect the evidence required for a decision
- Failure to prove that a particular requirement or qualification has been met
- Errors or mistakes made in filing out the application
- Information sent by the applicant but not received by the VA
- Information sent by the VA but not received by the applicant
Submitting the wrong forms, missing documentation and mistakes or errors on a claim form can also result in the claim being delayed or denied.
What happens when your claim is denied?
Denied claims can be appealed, but the process can be complex and tedious. There are three ways to appeal a claim denial:
- File a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) – A NOD lets the VA know that you do not agree with their decision and plan to go through the appeals process.
- Request a higher level review – The purpose of a higher level review is to have the case reviewed by a senior rating specialist without submitting any new evidence.
- File a supplemental claim – A supplemental claim contains new evidence and is reviewed by a veterans law judge at the Board of Veterans Affairs.
Applying for Aid and Attendance
Aid and Attendance (AA) is a VA enhanced pension for veterans or spouses who need long-term care. The care can be provided at home, or in a facility (board and care, assisted living and skilled nursing). The benefit is tax-free and does not need to be paid back.
Benefit amounts range from $1,432 per month for a surviving spouse to $3,536 for two married veterans who need care. To qualify for the benefit, the veteran must have served at least 90 days of active duty with at least 1 day during an eligible wartime period.
Most people looking online for an application to apply for the VA Aid and Attendance benefit (enhanced pension), will find a three-page form requesting a doctor’s attestation that the applicant needs certain types of help with personal care. In fact, there are dozens of application pages, statements, affidavits and forms needed for an AA claim to be considered complete.
When a doctor’s form is the only claim information the applicant submits to the VA, the claim must be developed into a completed claim before it can be reviewed. This can take quite a while depending on how much data is missing.
Sometimes the VA will contact the claimant by phone to collect the missing information. If the data cannot be gathered by phone, the VA will send one or more development letters to the applicant. If the additional data isn’t provided within a certain time period, the claim may end up being denied.
The requirements for this benefit can also be extremely complex. Title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations contains the main set of rules and regulations regarding VA benefits, including Aid and Attendance. Veterans Service Representatives (VSRs) are also issued manuals that contain thousands of pages of additional benefit policies and procedures. Anyone not trained on these materials can easily make mistakes or errors on the claim form – another reason why an Aid and Attendance claim can take a long time to process or get denied.
Title 38 Code of Federal Regulations – Web Automated Reference Material System (va.gov)
When applying for Aid and Attendance, the best way to avoid these problems and issues is to get help on your claim from a trained and certified VA representative. At American Veterans Aid, our VA representative and staff have helped thousands of veterans, spouses and their families successfully navigate the VA benefits process. We are experts on what it takes to get an Aid and Attendance claim approved. Don’t get stuck in the system or spend years trying to appeal a denied claim. Call one of our Benefit Consultants today at 877-427-8065 or click here to find out how to get through the process without unnecessary delays.