Rule gives veterans more help with benefits claims
By Kellie Lunney
Veterans will get more help from the Veterans Affairs Department when
submitting benefits claims under a final rule published in the Federal
The rule, which took effect Wednesday, implements the provisions of the
2000 Veterans Claims Assistance Act, signed into law by President
Clinton last year. The law strengthens VA's current "duty to assist"
program, which requires the agency to help veterans gather service
records, medical records and other documents necessary to file a
complete benefits claim.
The rule directs VA to inform veterans of the information necessary to
complete their claims, inform claimants when important medical or
military service information is missing, provide medical examinations
for disabled veterans who cannot afford medical care and provide any
other appropriate and necessary assistance to veterans.
The agency must tell veterans if it cannot find pertinent claims
information, and give them the opportunity to submit personal evidence
for information the VA cannot obtain. When submitting claims, veterans
have a year to submit any additional evidence the VA requests.
The rule also allows veterans to reopen a denied claim by submitting
"new and material evidence," documentation that has not previously been
submitted to the agency and that serves to substantiate the claim.
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"When the way comes to an end, then change - having changed, you pass through."
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