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Wed Apr 1, 2020, 07:03 PM

VFW argues abrupt VA change will 'erode veterans right to competent representation' in benefits figh [View all]

Source: Stars and Stripes

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VFW argues abrupt VA change will 'erode veterans right to competent representation' in benefits fights

By NIKKI WENTLING Stars and Stripes Published: April 1, 2020

WASHINGTON -- The Department of Veterans Affairs is ending a decades-old practice of allowing veterans service representatives to review benefits decisions for accuracy before those decisions are finalized and sent to veterans.

Veterans of Foreign Wars, which employs about 300 representatives across the country, argues the change will lead to more problems -- and paperwork -- for veterans. Paul Lawrence, the VA undersecretary of benefits, announced the change at a meeting with veterans groups last week, said Ryan Gallucci, a director at the VFW's office in Washington. It will take effect at the end of April.

"This is a last-chance quality review," Gallucci said. "We raised our concerns and said we'd really appreciate the ability to demonstrate why it's so important, but he basically said his mind was made up. This was happening, whether we agreed or not."

As outlined in a VA manual, representatives accredited by the VA have 48 hours to review new rating decisions on behalf of their veteran clients. The decisions determine the level of compensation for service-connected injuries and illnesses.

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The representatives check for inadvertent errors that could save veterans from having to file appeals or to request VA reviews. VFW representatives find errors in 5% to 7% of claims, Gallucci said.

Read more: https://www.stripes.com/news/veterans/vfw-argues-abrupt-va-change-will-erode-veterans-right-to-competent-representation-in-benefits-fights-1.624505

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