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Expedited Claims

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Posted on: Friday, May 20, 2011

Jim,

I'm a lay veterans advocate and twice this week I’ve had questions come up about financial hardships and expediting claims. In the first case, the vet has yet to be plugged into the VA system and is financially drowning while he waits. If I remember correctly, this is the two form he needs to send to expedite his claim.

http://www.va.gov/vaforms/va/pdf/VA5655.pdf

I wanted to make sure I was correct, or if there was another process/form that had to be done. Then I got another question today that I *think*applies in the same manner, though it’s a different situation. Here’s the question:

"have you ever seen a Notice of Waiver of VA Compensation or Pension To Receive Military Pay and Allowances? It's VA form 21-8951. What it is, is where my husband was still under contract to attend drill and collected disability of 40% and 50% for 2009 and then 50 in 2010 fiscal army year. The problem now I am having is where he is now 100% disabled and in need of care. They are now saying they will take his disability check at 100% until the money is paid back. I am estimating about 9,000 which would be 3 months of no income. We just now got back on our feet and I am literally panicking. We can't get food stamps, I can't work because of him and my youngest child...so not sure what to do here? I wanted to know if you knew anyone who was familiar with this and could help me see if there was a hardship waiver that can be filed on these forms. I know you aren't reserves, but thought maybe somewhere in your travels you might have seen it."

Is there a way to defer the payments so as not to create the hardship? And would those forms be the correct ones to use?

Reply:

the myth of the "expedited claim" is just that. The form you have is a simple financial statement used for many different things but not to expedite a claim for financial hardship.

Consider that if VA did allow for veterans to claim financial hardship to expedite a claim every one of us would be filling out those forms. VA processes claims in the order they are received. That's it. There is no more to the discussion. I have folks who argue that with me because some claims get done faster than others but that's simply chance or luck of the draw.

I've had luck with dying veterans and expedited claims. However, that takes pulling strings and often enough some form of Congressional pull and I don't do it often. I will never try to help a vet speed up a claim because of financial problems. If I did such a thing it would mean that I'm slipping veteran (A) ahead of the rest of those who are in much the same boat...so, the veterans best bet is to live his life as if he will never get any benefit from VA. If he swims in debt, deal with it as if VA didn't exist.

Military who are discharged and get a "separation bonus" of almost any medical disability sort must return it if they get VA disability. This gets complex but the basic fact is that if the vet got a $10,000.00 separation bonus and then 5 years later gets a VA disability award, that 10 large must be repaid. Outrageous, yes. Perfectly legal, yes.

However, when the letter arrives that says "we will recoup (x) amount of dollars from you" everyone panics and they don't read the fine print. It's usually buried back on page 345 of the itty-bitty legalese and jargon but there is a way to get this tossed aside.

The veteran simply appeals to the Committee on Waivers and Compromises. He tells them "OH GOD HELP ME if you take my money I will have a financial meltdown and my children will starve to DEATH and I'll have to go to work selling apples on the street corners."

Learn more about debt and waivers here http://www.vawatchdogtoday.org/Debt.html

The veteran must proceed to write a letter to the committee. This is addressed to the VARO in the usual fashion and mailed as certified RRR. The vet asks for relief based on potential hardship. Describe the hardship. Remember that this is an appeal to a human on the other end. No bitching and cussing allowed. This is the time to be very truthful and gracious and polite. Enclose an accurate financial statement. Thank them for their help. Then wait and hope for the best.

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