VA Regional Office

Understanding VA Form Letters

Filing a claim for VA disability benefits is just the beginning of a sometimes confusing and frustrating process. Once the claim is filed, you begin receiving letters from the VA containing information which appears contradictory and full of legalese. These are called VA development letters and are required by federal statute.

It is important to understand that much of the language in these VA letters is boilerplate language required by law. The Code of Federal Regulations S 3.159 stipulates what type of information the Department of Veterans Affairs must provide to help veterans with their claims. These letters are required to inform claimants about the evidence needed for the claim, acceptable proof to support the claim, the date the evidence must be submitted and the consequences of the evidence not being received. The letters you get from the VA are not that simple. These letters are several pages long, contain numerous attachments, and in general, confuse most veterans.

However, there are some things you can look for to ensure the VA is processing your claim appropriately. First, you need to ensure they are considering all of the disabilities which you claimed. It is not unusual for VA to miss issues, especially if you have claimed lots of disabilities. This is important because if the VA misses an issue and it is discovered later in the claims process, the VA must stop processing the claim and initiate development on this missed issue(s). This causes unnecessary delays in getting your claim completed.

Next, check to see what evidence the VA has acknowledged receiving. Often the VA does not properly acknowledge all the evidence you have submitted. So if you don't see an acknowledgment of evidence you know was submitted with the claim it is not an indication that the evidence was not received by VA.

Third, it is critical you follow any instructions or provide any information the VA requests in their development letters. For example, if you have filed a claim for post traumatic stress disorder and the VA requires a stressor statement, it is imperative you provide the information requested. If you fail to provide this information, a decision on your claim will be made without that information and will likely result in a negative decision. If the VA tells you they have been unable to obtain private treatment records you have identified, you must get those records and submit them to the VA. Once the VA has tried to obtain private records and been unsuccessful, they will move forward with their decision without this information unless you can provide it for review.

Finally, the VA disability claims process is complicated and complex. Attempting to file a appeal on your own may seem daunting. If you've been denied disability benefits you can now contact an attorney to assist you with contesting this denial. Contact this law firm for help at 713-572-4VET (4838) or fill-out our intake form.