How to Represent a Claimant Before the VA: Preparing and Submitting an Application

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By Matthew Donald, Esq., Director of VA Services 

So you completed the accreditation process, and you are ready to submit your first VA Improved Pension Claim. Now what?
Well, let’s start by making some points of clarification. This article is not intended to explain how to determine someone’s eligibility or how to assist someone in becoming eligible. This article is only intended to describe the application process. 

The application process usually starts with the Intent to File a Claim. I say usually because although it isn’t required, it is usually done because it can take some time to collect all of the required information and forms for the Formal Claim. However, if you have your Formal Claim ready to go, then there is no need to actually file the Intent to File a Claim. 

The Intent to File a Claim is intended to put the VA on notice that you are going to file a claim. It is a way of putting your “foot in the door” so to speak.

So what is involved in the “Intent to File a Claim”?

VBA Form 21-0966 – The VBA Form 21-0966, Intent to File a Claim form can be signed by either the claimant or the claimant’s representative for the claimant. If this form is signed by the representative, then you must submit, concurrently or before, a VBA Form 21-22a, Appointment of Individual as Claimant's Representative. As a matter of practice, we always have the claimant sign this form when possible.

VBA Form 21-22a – The VBA Form 21-22a, Appointment of Individual as Claimant's Representative, is signed by the claimant and the authorized representative in two places. This form lets the VA know that you will be representing the claimant to the VA.  Without this form, the VA will not accept the VBA Form 21-0966.

VBA Form 21-0845 – VBA Form 21-0845, Authorization to Disclose Personal Information to a Third Party is the next form you will need to file. This form allows the VA to talk to someone other than the claimant such as when you call to check on the status of a claim or to ensure the VA has received the forms you mailed or faxed to them. Claimants often ask us if the VBA Form 21-22a is the same as this. The answer is no; it is not. The VBA Form 21-22a simply tells the VA you are representing the claimant whereas the VBA Form 21-0845 actually permits to VA to discuss the claim with you.

VBA Form 21-4138 – VBA Form 21-4138, Statement in Support of Claim. In the past this form was used as notice of your intent to file a claim. It is not required now as part of the Intent to File because you are now required to file a VBA Form 21-0966.

DD214 – The DD-214 (DD stands for Department of Defense) is the current form of military discharge papers. This form is not required to be filed at his time, but it can take some time to track down an original, which must be filed at the same time or before the filing of the Formal Claim. As a point of clarification, prior to January 1, 1950, there were many other types of military discharge papers. These include, but are not limited to WD AGO 53, WD AGO 55, WD AGO 53-55, NAVPERS 553, NAVMC 78PD, and the NAVCG 553. WD stood for War Department, AGO for Army General Order, NAVPERS for Navy Personnel, NAVMC for Navy Marine Corps, NAVCG for Navy Coast Guard.

Got it! Now where and how do I send all these forms?
And the typical attorney answer is……it depends. It depends on your geographical location. You should submit your claim to the Pension Management Center (PMC) that serves your state or to your regional office.  As a point of practice, if you mail the forms to the VA be sure to get a return receipt as a minimum and be sure to keep a copy of anything you submit. If you choose to fax your forms, be sure the fax goes through and be sure to keep the fax confirmation sheet. If your fax machine can show miniature copies of what you actually faxed, better yet. Believe it or not, the VA occasionally loses information so it’s best to prove you
submitted something when you said you submitted it.

OK, we got our “foot in the door”! Now what?
Now the fun part starts! Now you will need to prepare the Formal Claim. Again, the assumption here is that the claimant is fully eligible for the benefit for which you are applying. Once you have compiled all of the required forms mentioned below, you will send them to the same place you sent the Intent to File.

VBA Form 21-4138 – VBA Form 21-4138, Statement in Support of Claim. It is always a good idea to file a VBA Form 21-4138 to explain any unusual circumstances that may arise such as a need to expedite your claim due to age or illness.

VBA 21-527EZ – VBA 21-527EZ, Application for Pension. This form is used when the Veteran is applying for the benefit. It does not matter if the ill person is the Veteran or the spouse of the Veteran. If the Veteran is alive, this is the form to use.

VBA 21-534EZ – VBA 21-534EZ, Application for DIC, Death Pension, and/or Accrued Benefits. This form is used when the widow(er) of a Veteran is applying for either Death Indemnity Compensation (DIC), the Death Pension, or any Accrued Benefit not yet paid. If the Veteran is still alive, you MUST use VBA 21-527EZ Application for Pension.

VBA 24-0296 – VBA 24-0296, Direct Deposit Enrollment. This is your typical direct deposit form which is required by the VA because they usually will not mail a check.

VBA 21-0779 – VBA 21-0779, Request for Nursing Home Information in Connection with Claim for Aid and Attendance. If your claimant is in a nursing home, you will need to have this form completed by the nursing home.

VBA 21-2680 – VBA 21-2680, Examination for Housebound Status or Permanent Need for Regular Aid and Attendance. If you are filing for Housebound or Aid and Attendance for either a Veteran or a widow(er) of a Veteran, you will need to have the doctor complete this form. The only time this would not be necessary is when you are ONLY applying for base improved pension.

VBA 21P-8416 – VBA 21P-8416, Medical Expense Report. If you intend to use medical expenses to offset income, you will need to complete and submit this form as well. As a practice point, you
will almost always (I have never not) need to submit this form to offset income.

Healthcare Provider Statement – There is no standard VA form for this. However, this is a brief statement from the health care provider that explains the services being provided and the cost of those services. It also lists which of the activities of daily living the healthcare provider assists with for the claimant.

That’s a lot of forms! Where can I find all these forms? 

Good news! All of the VA forms are readily available on the internet and can be found here.

These forms are PDF fillable forms that you can complete, print and save. You will have to type the information into each of these forms individually as the information does not carry over from one form to the next.

That’s still a lot of forms requiring the same information over and over! There has to be a better way!
Why, yes, yes there is a better way! The Lawyers With Purpose Software is your one-stop location for filling out these forms. In the software, under the tab, VA Qualification and Application, you can find an easy-to-follow interview that will complete the VA Intent to File as well as the VA Formal Claim. At the end of the interview, the software will automatically generate ALL of the forms you require to file either the Intent to File or the Formal Claim.

What if I get stuck along the way?
Don’t worry! We have you covered. Just log on to our member website and go to the Process Tab and select the VA Qualification & Application. You will find everything you need in Tabs 3-8.  Additionally you can check out the vast amount of resources on the VA Tech School tab under the Legal/Technical tab as well as the video on the VA Application Process located on the Learning
About VA Benefits & Applications tab on the Training tab.

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