Wednesday, October 31, 2012

House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on the role of the VSO claims rep

The House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing that examined the role of the VSO claims representative in the VA disability claims process.  You can access information from the hearing at this link:

(posted to May 2012)

Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on VA mental health care

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on VA Mental Health Care: Evaluating and Assessing Care.  You can view the hearing from this link:

(posted to May 2012)


Starting May 15, 2012, the Department of Veterans Affairs began accepting applications for the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), for training that begins on or after July 1, 2012.  This program is open to unemployed veterans, ages 35 to 60, who pursue a VA-approved program offered by a community college or technical school that leads to a “high-demand occupation.”  The link to the VRAP’s list of High Demand Occupations is

In order to be eligible for this program, you must (1) have received an other than dishonorable discharge, (2) not be eligible for any other VA education program, (3) not be receiving VA compensation based on employability, and (4) not be enrolled in a federal or state job training program.  The program is limited to 99,000 veterans – with 45,000 veterans allowed to participate prior to October 1, 2012. 

This is a joint effort between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Labor.  The Department of Labor will provide every veteran participant with employment assistance after they have completed the program.  More information can be found at this link:

(posted to May 2012)

VA Final Rule for Agency and Board hearing officers

VA issued a final rule stating that the rules regarding hearings conducted at the regional offices also apply to hearings conducted at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. 
77 Fed. Reg. 23128 (Apr. 18, 2012).  

(posted to May 2012)

New Rule for Veterans with ALS

VA has amended its rating schedule to provide a 100% disability rating for any veteran with service-connected amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).  This rule became effective on January 19, 2012, and applies to an application for benefits that was received by VA or appealed to the Board or was remanded to the Board by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims on or after January 19, 2012.   76 Fed. Reg. 78823 (Dec. 20, 2011).

(posted to May 2012)

Request to Reopen Previously Denied Claims

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a decision stating that you can file a request to reopen a previously denied claim without submitting new and material evidence at the time that you file that request.  You will have submit new and material evidence in order to have the claim reopened – but you can file the claim to preserve the earlier effective date.  Akers v. Shinseki, 2011-7018 (Mar. 23, 2012), available at
(posted to March 2012)

VA rules for agency and Board hearing officers

VA has indicated that it may repeal a rule that says that Board hearing officers are not required to follow the same rules as regional office hearing officers. See 76 Fed. Reg. 52572 (Aug. 23, 2011).  Until then, Board hearing officers are bound by one set of regulations, and regional office hearing officers are bound by a different set of regulations.

(posted to March 2012)

Court may reconsider cases dismissed between July 2008 and December 2011

If you filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims between July 24, 2008, and December 20, 2011, and your appeal was dismissed because it was filed late (i.e., more than 120 days after the Board of Veterans’ Appeals denied your claim), you may be able to get the Court to reconsider its dismissal, as long as you have good cause for the late filing.  See Bove v. Shinseki, No. 08-1468, 2011 WL 6364587 (per curiam order Dec. 20, 2011), available at

(posted to March 2012)

Disability Examination Worksheets

       In addition to the Disability Benefits Questionnaires available on VA’s website (to be used by both VA and private physicians in conducting medical examinations), you can still access Disability Examination Worksheets that are used by VA physicians in comp and pen exams, listed by condition, at

The link for the Disability Benefits Questionnaires is:

(posted to March 2012)

Home Front

     The American Bar Association has a program called Home Front that provides legal resources for military families:

(Posted to March 2012)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Extension of time for “chronic multi-system illness” for Persian Gulf War veterans

For veterans who served in SW Asia during the Persian Gulf War: VA issued a new rule extending the period for compensation for certain disabilities due to undiagnosed illnesses and medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illnesses. The date for an illness to have been manifested previously was December 31, 2011 – and this rule extends that date to December 31, 2016. 

     (posted to January 2012)

Accrued benefits claim can be reopened with new and material evidence

The CAVC issued a decision in Quattlebaum v. Shinseki, finding that an accrued benefits claim can be reopened with new and material evidence.