Coronavirus prompts changes to the VA Disability process

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The coronavirus is affecting how the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Board of Veterans Appeals are handling VA Disability claims exams and hearings.

How this affects your claim will depend on where you are in the process. What has not changed is our commitment to our VA Disability clients.

VA Regional Offices

The VA has temporarily closed its 56 regional offices for in-person visits. 

Initially, this change meant that veterans’ VA claims at this stage of the review were being postponed, but things are evolving.  VA Regional Offices may begin conducting virtual hearings once technology is in place.  At this point, our preference is to have most VA Regional Office appeals via telephone.

Is the VA still doing claims exams or compensation and pension (C&P) exams?

The VA is still doing these exams to rate potential disabilities, diagnose health conditions, and determine service-connected disabilities. But an in-person visit should not be required.

According to the VA, “We’re doing many exams virtually … We’re also doing more records reviews using Acceptable Clinical Evidence (ACE). This means we’ll review your existing medical records instead of requiring an in-person or telehealth exam.”

If you have received a notice from a non-VA healthcare provider advising you to show up for an in-person claims exam, call first to make sure it hasn’t been cancelled. You should also ask why an in-person exam is medically necessary.

If you don’t feel comfortable going to an in-person exam, please contact us. You should not do anything to jeopardize your health. You should also inform the healthcare provider that you will not be keeping the appointment.

The VA has indicated it will not penalize veterans for missing deadlines or appointments because of coronavirus-related hardships.

Board of Veterans Appeals Hearings

The Board of Veterans Appeals has temporarily suspended in-person business. However, they are conducting virtual hearings. These virtual hearings are proceeding on the same timeline as previous in-person hearings.

If you’re not able to participate in a virtual hearing because of technology issues or because you would prefer an in-person session, the BVA will reschedule.

The Board of Veterans Appeals is also being lenient with filing deadlines. Though we are not seeking deadline extensions unless a client specifically asks for it, we are glad to know that veterans will not be penalized for missed or late filings.

The Board says it will consider requests for good cause to submit notices of disagreement and to submit substantive appeals.

What should I do if I have an upcoming VA health appointment?

The VA is recommending veterans use telehealth services for routine appointments. If you have a non-urgent elective procedure, the VA may contact you to cancel or reschedule.

Urgent and emergency procedures will continue as scheduled at VA Medical Centers, although it’s always a good idea to check that your appointment has not been changed.

If you have a community care appointment scheduled with a non-VA provider, you should contact them to see if you need to reschedule or conduct the visit using telehealth instead.



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