Last week, the St. Paul Pension Management Center granted on appeal the surviving spouse of a veteran Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). The issue on appeal involved a dependency status question when the marriage lasted less than one year. While marriage for one year is the normal predicate question for spousal status, in this case “status” was satisfied under 38 C.F.R. § 3.54 (c) (1) (death within 15 years of termination of service). I was not surprised by the grant of DIC once a few issues were resolved through a Certification Under Penalty of Perjury by the surviving spouse. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the efficiency and timeliness of the decision subject to appeal. Indeed, the timeliness between filing of Notice of Disagreement and decision subject to appeal was less than four months.
St. Paul Pension Management Center has not been alone if their responsiveness to certain claims on appeal. In the last few months, the Philadelphia Pension Management Center timely granted DIC benefits after submission of VA Form 9 (Substantive Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA)) on a somewhat unique issue regarding spousal status that I assumed would takes years to resolve. While the issue could have been certified to the BVA with a hearing at an unknown future date, the AOJ’s actions quickly resolved an otherwise complex issue.
Finally, the Newark Regional Office recently granted DIC benefits on appeal for the surviving spouse of a Vietnam veteran. While the appeal took some time to process, the Regional Office was extremely responsive when an issue arose regarding the surviving spouse’s health. The timely grant of benefits provided not only monetary compensation, but also permitted the surviving spouse to coordinate health care coverage due to her now-availability to CHAMPVA.