VA Regional Office
Understanding VA Form Letters
Filing a claim for VA disability benefits is just the beginning of a confusing and frustrating process.
Once your claim is filed, you will receive letters from the VA containing information which often appears contradictory and is always full of legalese. These are called VA "development letters." VA sends development letters because they are required by federal statute.
Section 3.159 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations stipulates the type of information VA must provide to help Veterans with their claims. Development letters are supposed to inform claimants about the evidence needed to perfect their claim, acceptable proof to support the claim, the date the evidence must be submitted and the consequences of the evidence not being received. Unfortunately, much of the language in development letters (and other VA correspondence) is boilerplate language required by law. This means the letters you get from the VA are not straightforward and may not even be tailored to your exact situation. Usually, VA correspondence is several pages long, contains numerous attachments, and in general, confuses most Veterans.
- The most important thing you can do is look for the response date (such as "60 days from the date of this letter") and obtain sound legal advice in time to reply within VA's stated due-date.
In addition to VA's response due-date, the following are items you should specifically look for to ensure VA is processing your claim appropriately.
- Has VA Identified All Your Disabilities? Ensure VA is considering all the disabilities you claimed. It is not unusual for VA to miss issues, especially if you have claimed many disabilities. Double-checking VA is important because if VA misses an issue and it is discovered later in the claims process, VA must stop processing your claim and initiate development on the missed issue(s). This causes unnecessary delays in completing your claim.
- Does VA Acknowledge All Your Evidence? Check to see what evidence VA has acknowledged receiving. Often VA does not properly acknowledge all the evidence you submitted. If you don't see an acknowledgment of evidence and you know it was submitted with your claim, don't assume VA didn't receive it. VA may simply have failed to acknowledge receipt. But don't assume. Make sure you check with VA.
- Understand VA's Instructions. It is critical that you follow any instructions or provide any information VA requests in its development letters. For example, if you have filed a claim for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and VA requires a stressor statement, you must provide the information requested. If you fail to provide this information, a decision on your PTSD claim will be made without it and will likely result in a negative decision. Also, if VA tells you it has been unable to obtain the private treatment records you have identified, you must get those records and submit them to 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.
VA's disability claims process is complicated and complex. It's so difficult that approximately 70% of disability claims are initially denied by VA. Attempting to appeal on your own may seem daunting. But, you are not alone. If VA has denied your claim for disability benefits, you are entitled to an attorney to assist you with contesting VA's denial.
The Law Office of Robert B. Goss, P.C. is a VA-accredited law firm, meaning we are authorized to represent you before VA. Contact us for by calling: 713-572-4VET (4838) or by completing our easy intake form.
The Veterans' Attorney