Jamie Reno has an exclusive piece on a new proposed rule by the U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs (DVA) (VA) that will slap away veterans seeking disability benefits after the VA's Veterans Benefits Administration screw up veterans' claims.
Reno notes an almost identical piece of legislation, HR 1404, in being considered in the House and studied in the Senate. Concerned readers should contact their House reps.
Screwing up veterans' claims is the norm.
Justice John Roberts in oral arguments in Astrue v. Ratliff (No. 08-1322) (2010):
"In litigating with veterans, the government more often than not takes a position that is substantially unjustified?"The VA benefits claim procedures are supposed to be non-adversarial, in effect paternalistic, under the Veterans' Judicial Review Act of 1988 (VJRA). And the proposed regulation, RIN 2900-AO81, is substantially insulting and would block veterans who need our help as they come home.
Justice Roberts: This is "really startling."
Notes Reno: "Under current law, veterans are able to simply write a letter to apply for and/or to appeal a claim. No form necessary, no special language needed. This policy has actually been a welcome protection for veterans for veterans with disabilities that limit their cognitive functions."
This new anti-veteran proposed rule would make the benefits process adversarial and turn the VBA into one huge, mean-spirited health insurance company for our veterans, emphatically so for the large numbers of veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
What you can do now
Written public comments may be submitted through www.regulations.gov; by mail or hand-delivery to the Director, Regulations Management (02REG),
Department of Veterans Affairs,
810 Vermont Avenue NW., Room 1068,
Washington, DC 20420; or by fax to (202) 273-9026. (This is not a toll-free number.)
Comments should indicate that they are submitted in response to “RIN 2900-AO81—Standard Claims and Appeals Forms.”
Copies of comments received will be available for public inspection in the Office of Regulation Policy and Management, Room 1063B, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday (except holidays). Please call (202) 461-4902 for an appointment. (This is not a toll-free number.) In addition, during the comment period, comments may be viewed online through the Federal Docket Management System (FDMS) at www.regulations.gov.
Glenn Bergmann, a partner at Bergmann and Moore, a Washington D.C.-area law firm that solely represents veterans with VA disability claims, has studied the proposal and the relevant case law. He tells Veteran Journal that, "While on the surface these proposed regulations look veteran-friendly, they really are not."
Bergmann says that if approved this VA proposal will "gut decades of veteran-friendly case law by eliminating reasonably raised claims made by veterans. If VA’s proposed regulation goes into effect and forces veterans to use only VA’s forms, then VA tilts the scales of justice from a pro-veteran claim system to an anti-veteran process."
Bergmann adds that veterans with mental health issues such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) will be at a particular disadvantage if VA’s proposed regulation is adopted.