The attorney of a wartime veteran filed a claim for pension with aid and attendance, just like he had done many times before, using VA Form 21-526, Veterans Application for Compensation and/or Pension. Yet, this time was different. His claim was denied for submitting the wrong form.
How can this be the wrong form? It says right in the title of the form, Veterans Application for Compensation and/or Pension. Pension is the benefit being sought. The most recently published form is November 2014, thus, the form itself is not outdated.
I cannot answer the above question. What I can share to all advocates who are accredited by the VA to assist veterans with claims is that the VA prefers, and is apparently requiring, that all claims be submitted through the Fully Developed Claims (FDC) process. There are specific application forms for this.
For Veterans filing a claim for service connected disability benefits, use VA Form 21-526EZ, published in January 2014.
For Veterans filing a claim for Improved Pension (which may include aid and attendance), the VA Form 21-527EZ is the appropriate form. It was published in August 2011, which is still the most current form to use.
For Widows of Veterans, the 21-534EZ must be used, which is dated June 2014.
Unfortunately, what can be confusing is that the other, non-FDC application for widows, 21-534 (without the EZ), is also still available to file and was also published on June 2014. Like the 21-526, which permits a person to file an application for pension, the 21-534 (without the EZ) may be rejected because it is not on the EZ form. As long as the claim is filed on a currently available, currently published (not superseded) form, then the VA should accept the claim, even if not on the EZ form. Go to: http://www.va.gov/vaforms/ to obtain the most current forms available.
What do you do if you filed an application for benefits but it was rejected or denied for having been filed on the “wrong” form? Submit a new application using the correct form. The good news, per the current law, is that even though the wrong form was completed, filed and rejected, the VA must still treat that “communication or action” as an “informal claim” for benefits. The advantage of “informal claim” recognition is that the filing of an informal claim “locks in” the eligibility date for approval of benefits. Thus, even though it feels like you are starting over with the claim, the approval should be retroactive to when the original claim was filed, albeit on the incorrect form. Time in processing the claim may be lost, but not the actual benefit itself during that time.
For more information on the day-to-day operations and expectations of the Veterans Administration, become a member of Lawyers with Purpose and attend our monthly training webinars, led by national Veterans Pension Benefits expert and co-founder of Lawyers with Purpose, Victoria L. Collier, Certified Elder Law Attorney, through the National Elder Law Foundation.
Victoria L. Collier, Certified Elder Law Attorney, Fellow of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Co-Founder, Lawyers with Purpose, LLC, and author of 47 Secret Veterans’ Benefits for Seniors…Benefits You Have Earned but Don’t Know About.
Victoria Collier has been the leader at teaching lawyers how to help Veterans. She is providing the 3 hour accreditation training on February 4, 2015, in Charlotte, North Carolina for just $249!
Even if you have had the initial accreditation, this course will also meet the on-going accreditation requirements. Each lawyer who is accredited must continue to take 3 hours of CLE every 24 months. In addition to the required information, Victoria will bring you up to date practices by the VA.
If you are just a beginner or a seasoned VA practitioner, you are certain to learn something. And, because it is live training, you will have the opportunity to ask questions. Don’t miss this opportunity! To register contact Kyle Russ at firstname.lastname@example.org. Seats are limited so register soon.
** Before attending the course, you must have submitted an Application for Accreditation, VA Form 21a, to the Office of General Counsel and received approval.**