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VA taken to task by judge for making vets' lives difficult

People who have served our country often find it necessary to apply for some type of assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs. While these veterans' benefits should in theory be available to all who need them, at times it is not always as simple as it should be. Recently a federal judge reprimanded the VA for denying some veterans of their due-process rights.

The difficulty stems from a rule that the VA said it was going to stop enforcing --but did not. In general, the VA is different from some other government agencies in that officers who evaluate the claims of veterans are supposed to help them in the process to identify forms they are missing and maximize their potential benefits whenever possible.

The rule the VA instituted for a time was that this sort of help would not be given if a veteran made an appeal in a region different from where the original case was judged. So, for example, a veteran who made an appeal in Georgia based on an original claim in Texas would not get the extra assistance they might need.

Veterans eventually objected to this rule and the agency said it would no longer enforce it. However, a VA whistleblower alerted officials that the rule was still being enforced. This could have a real impact on veterans who need assistance; according to the VA, more than 1 million claims or appeals are currently outstanding. An experienced veterans' claims attorney could prove to be the difference for someone between being denied and being accepted.

Source: Sun Sentinel, "VA denied veterans due process, court says," March 25, 2013

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