Senators seek extensions for veterans applying for benefits during coronavirus pandemic

Abbie Bennett
March 31, 2020 - 5:29 pm
Benefits

Dreamstime

Top Veterans Affairs senators don't want vets to have to choose between their health and their benefits, so they're asking for waivers for veterans applying for benefits during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Senate Veterans Affairs Chairman Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, and ranking member Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said they are asking the Department of Veterans Affairs to waive or extend claim deadlines during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Because of widespread stay-at-home orders or self-isolation instructions in many states, the senators said many veterans may not be able to file necessary paperwork for their claims or appeals without risking themselves or violating those orders. 

Veterans also may not be able to access the Veteran Service Organizations, legal clinics or attorney's offices that often help them navigate the benefits and claims processes. 

But those veterans shouldn't lose out on benefits, the senators said. 

“Veterans may feel paralyzed with anxiety and fear over this pandemic and they should not be penalized for missing deadlines when their focus should be on maintaining their own health,” the senators wrote in a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Veterans also may not have access to their representatives to help guide them through the complicated claims and appeals process during this national emergency.

"Therefore, we encourage VA to institute a waiver for all veterans who are facing filing deadlines and consider establishing a retroactive date for all new claim submissions. We would like to see the VA use its broad regulatory authority to toll all veteran-facing deadlines for 180 days. Furthermore, we ask VA to consider all new filings between April 1, 2020 and the end of the Presidential emergency declaration, to be treated as if they were filed on March 31, 2020 so that veterans who are unable to file claims or Supplemental Claims during the early days of this crisis benefit from an earlier effective date."

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Reach Abbie Bennett: abbie@connectingvets.com or @AbbieRBennett.

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