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Last updated: July 25. 2014 10:07AM - 84 Views
Thomas Crisp Contributing Columnist



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You should receive your VHIC within seven to 10 days after you request a VHIC card. Although VA strives to do all they can to ensure they enroll veterans in a timely manner, sometimes they are unable to either verify your military service or need additional information from you.


If so, VA will try to contact you to get the information they need to complete your enrollment application. If VA is unable to reach you, they encourage you to contact the local VA facility where the card was requested or contact them at 1-877-222-VETS (8387) to complete your application and find out the status of your card.


Until veterans receive the new, more secure VHIC, veterans are encouraged to safeguard their old VIC, just like they would a credit card, to prevent unauthorized access to their identity information. Once the new VHIC is received, veterans should destroy their old VIC by cutting it up or shredding it.


If your VHIC is lost or stolen, contact the VA Medical Facility where your picture was taken to request a new card, or call us at 1-877-222-VETS (8387).



New burial regulations effective July 7 will now allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to automatically pay the maximum amount allowable under law to most eligible surviving spouses more quickly and efficiently, without the need for a written application.


Under former regulations, VA paid burial benefits on a reimbursement basis, which required survivors to submit receipts for relatively small one-time payments that VA generally paid at the maximum amount permitted by law.


Surviving spouses will be paid upon notice of the veteran’s death using information already in VA systems. The burial allowance for a non-service-connected death is $300, and $2,000 for a death connected to military service. This revised regulation will further expedite the delivery of these benefits to surviving spouses, reduce the volume of claims requiring manual processing, and potentially make available resources for other activities that benefit Veterans and their survivors. For more information on monetary burial benefits, visit www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/claims-special-burial.asp.



Hundreds of thousands of disability claims filed with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ eBenefits portal launched in February 2013 are incomplete and could start to expire this month, Next gov has learned. VA Undersecretary for Benefits Allison Hickey touted the new portal in June 2013 as simple as filing taxes online and a way to whittle down the claims backlog. Gerald Manar, deputy director of the National Veterans Service at VFW, told Nextgov the Veterans Benefits Administration on June 26 briefed VSOs on problems with the eBenefits portal, including the fact that only 72,000 claims filed through eBenefits have been completed and approved since last June, with another 228,000 incomplete.


VA spokeswoman Meagan Lutz said since February 2013, just over 445,000 online applications have been initiated. Of those, approximately 70,000 compensation claims have been submitted and another 70,000 nonrating (add a dependent, etc.) have been submitted, leaving a total of 300,000 incomplete claims. Because a number of claims started are more than 365 days old, they have now expired, totaling an estimated 230,000 unprocessed claims. Lutz said an important element of the electronic claim submission process is the ability for veterans to start a claim online with limited information to hold a date of claim, while simultaneously providing 365 days to collect data, treatment records and other related information.


Lutz said a veteran simply hits “save” and any information provided is saved in temporary tables. During that 365-day period, a veteran may add additional data or upload documents associated with that specific claim. At any point during that timeframe, a veteran can hit the “submit” button and a claim will be automatically established within the Veterans Benefits Management System, designed to entirely automate claims processing by next year, and documents will be uploaded to the veteran’s e-folder. Claims submitted in eBenefits may be incomplete because many users can potentially start a claim as part of their exploration of the system.


The VA eBenefits team has no way of actually knowing which claims that might be started within eBenefits are valid and or have been abandoned for any number of reasons After 365 days, Lutz said, the data is made inaccessible and the initiated claim date is removed from the system. The system was designed to provide the veteran as much flexibility as possible in preserving that start date as well as support the Fully Developed Claim initiative, which gives the veteran the opportunity to accrue additional benefits for providing all the data needed to rate the claim.


Lutz said if vets try to submit electronically hundreds of documents, such as PDFs of medical records, “that volume of documents makes electronic submission very difficult, and we always recommend that they work with a Veterans Service Organization, as the VSOs have the expertise to ensure that the right information is gathered and submitted.”


VSOs have little visibility into the claims filed to date through the eBenefits portal because of design problems with the information technology system set up, the Stakeholder Enterprise Portal (SEP), Manar said. That portal only allows for broad searches for claims at the state and the VBA regional office level, and limits any search to 1,000 claims.


SEP is also not set up to notify VSOs when a claim is filed through eBenefits, nor does it provide alerts when claims are due to expire, Manar said and urged VA to fix SEP to provide such notifications.


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