BY JOHN H. RILING III, CHAIR
VVA’s Veteran Benefits Program has shown great success in recent years, as indicated by VA figures. Out of all the organizations that represent veterans and their families, the VBP has consistently had one of the lowest denial rates. VVA ranks among the top three organizations for the past three years in having the least number of cases denied. Just last year the VBP had only 14 percent of its claims denied; 16 percent in 2019; and 12.5 percent in 2018.
Training and testing for VSO accreditation have slowed down. These issues will be addressed as needed. In addition, the National office reports a heavy workload that is partially due to some states shutting down their VSO programs.
The temporary closing of the National Records Center in St. Louis will undoubtedly create a backlog of claims processing. The backlog also will increase due to those filing as a result of the Nehmer case and the three presumptives that were included in the newly enacted National Defense Authorization Act.
In addition, IHP deadlines are becoming an overwhelming task due to the numbers of appeals that need to be handled by current staff. Every day more claimants are reaching the age of 75, which entitles them to expedited processing. The National VVA attorney staff has undergone many changes. Reassignment, replacement, and new hires have been necessary. National will hire another attorney to help handle the caseload.
The Minnesota State Council will shut down in June or July. No Minnesota chapter has volunteered to take over the program; due to policy issues, National is not allowed to step in. However, VVA National will retain the POA for those in appeal and for those who have scheduled hearings. Letters will be sent to claimants informing them of the situation and suggesting they change their POA to other organizations.