For a number of months now, veterans and other claimants for VA disability compensation or benefits have been receiving letters stating that they “may experience a delay in receipt of correspondence from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)”.
Considering any correspondence with VA may include important, time-sensitive information and deadlines for responding, the letters have proved plenty frustrating for those engaged in active claims and appeals. VA typically allows 30- to 60-day windows after correspondence has been sent for claimants to take action on such matters as electing benefits and services or scheduling C&P examinations. The mailing delay has been severe enough to drastically cut down on that window.
So what does these letters mean, and how might they affect you?
First, know that VA has sent this letter to give you additional time to respond to correspondence that has not reached you in a timely manner, and through no fault of your own. VA acknowledges that between July 13, 2021 and December 31, 2021, you may not have received timely correspondence. Such correspondence may have included information regarding your pursuit of benefits or notification of a decision, and given you a certain date by which to respond.
What Should You Do?
Because of the mailing delay, VA is allowing veterans an additional 90 days beyond the date which appears on any correspondence to respond. This decision affects all correspondence from the Veterans Benefit Administration regarding disability compensation, pension benefits, decision reviews, and services related to the Veteran Readiness and Employee Program.
VA instructs you how to proceed based on your own situation, and provides the following four options:
If you have already received and fully responded to the correspondence, no further action is needed
- If you received a letter dated July 13, 2021 through December 31, 2021 requesting a reply but have not done so, you are encouraged to respond as instructed in your latest correspondence. You have 90 additional days to reason, beyond the timeframe indicated in the latter
- If VA made a decision on your claim for benefits before the extended timeframe expired, please notify VA, and provide the evidence or information requested. VA will take corrective action to ensure that any new evidence or information that you provide is considered
- If you believe you should have received a letter but did not, please contact VA at 1-800-827-1000
The letter goes on to list the various VA resources you can seek out with questions or for assistance, as well as the places where you should send information and evidence.
VA also pledges not to “deny, reduce or terminate benefits and services” affected by the July 13-December 31 mail delay unless:
- The veteran is contacted and documentation of their right to respond exists
- VA has received the requested information
- The response period has lapsed
What Caused the Mailing Delays?
As an explanation for the extension letter, VA made an announcement on November 30, 2021 addressing mailing delays that had been seriously affecting its ability to communicate in a timely manner. According to VA, timely deliver had been disrupted by supply chain and staffing shortages at the outside vendor contracted by the Government Publishing Office to provide printing and mailing services for VA. VA and GPO have been working to address the delay since before that time.
Assistance With Your Claim
The VA mailing delay falls before the larger backdrop of supply chain issues and staffing shortages that began with the COVID-19 pandemic, and have caused plenty of confusion and consternation for those hoping to procure a decision on benefits and services.
If you need assistance with your claim or appeal, and hope to get around every obstacle thrown in your way to get the compensation you need from VA, please contact VA Disability Group PLLC online or at 844-VET-LAWS today.