Service officers: national staff available for support

In September, there were 1,211 informal hearing presentations prepared by American Legion claims specialists, free of charge, to help veterans appeal their denial of VA benefits. And 307 appeals cases from veterans disputing VA benefits decisions were ruled in favor of the veteran, thanks to free representation from American Legion benefits specialists.

Tony Cross, a Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division veterans disability claims specialist, shared during the October Training Tuesday that there are currently 600 Board of Veterans Appeals cases under the Appeals Modernization Act, and 510 legacy cases, assigned to one of the Legion’s appeals representatives. Through the Veteran Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, there are three decision review options for disagreements with benefits decisions – Higher-Level Review (form 20-0996), Supplemental Claim (form 20-0995) and Appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals.

“The request for higher level review takes on average less time than going to the Board of Veterans Appeals,” Cross said. “The board can take on average one calendar year.”

With the increase of board hearings being virtual for veterans, which has seen an increase of benefits granted rate of 56%, Dave Spivey, senior team leader in the Legion’s BVA unit, said it’s important to prepare the veteran in advance of his or her hearing.

“Make sure the veteran has the ability to communicate with the judge (virtually) and make sure that virtual hearing can go without any glitches,” he said. “Communicate with the veteran much earlier than the hearing to make sure the veteran is able to connect and communicate.” Spivey recommended doing a pre-hearing to ensure all will go well during the actual hearing.

If an American Legion service officer needs help representing a veteran during a virtual board hearing, please email National staff can provide support so a hearing is not delayed or rescheduled. And email va& for all other questions.