Rarely a day goes by where a veteran — some days a baker’s dozen — does not contact me via email (sdirector@FRE-L.com) or telephone ((732) 382-6070) concerning issues they are having with the Department of Veterans Affairs. These contacts come in from all geographic areas (to include out-of-country) and range in issue from initial claim processing confusion to issues pending since before I was born . . . that is not an overstatement.
It’s common that the veteran doesn’t need formal representation, simply guidance on how to proceed and the Veterans Law Section of Fink Rosner Ershow-Levenberg is happy to provide. I suspect that all individuals who represent veterans before the Department of Veterans Affairs (be it Veteran Service Officer or attorney) encounter similar issues, so I’m going to try and identify the information I would like to see: (1) after an initial contact from a veteran; or (2) during a consultation to discuss formal representation.
Initial Contact. During initial contact, I am predominantly concerned with procedural status and what issues (disabilities) are pending before the VA. To triage, the main documents I’d like to see are the veteran’s most recent decision (be it initial Rating Decision, Statement of Case, decision from the Board of Veterans’ Appeals) and the most recent notification/correspondence they received from the VA. This will normally provide sufficient information for me to ascertain the current procedural status, what evidence the VA reviewed, some indication of what prior decisions have been issued, and the veteran’s current disability rating. I’m a child of the computer generation, so I prefer to receive via electronic mail, however, facsimile or hard mail is fine.
Formal Consultation. If I believe formal representation is possible (or in certain circumstances, when I need to get the veteran tracking with a more personal touch), I try schedule a formal consultation immediately. At the formal consultation (via telephone for out-of-area veterans or in-person), I would like to see a number of items: (1) a copy of all VA decisions and correspondence that the veteran has in their possession; (2) a copy of any documents that the veteran has filed with the VA [if they have maintained copy]; (3) a copy of any military service documents the veteran has [DD-214, service personnel documents, service medical records]; (4) a copy of post-discharge medical records if possible [recent VA treatment records can normally be downloaded at Blue Button at https://www.myhealth.va.gov/index.html]; and (5) contact information for the veteran’s physicians. Once formal representation begins, I’ll be able to obtain a copy of the veteran’s administrative record [called a C-File] and Official Military Personnel File [OMPF]; however, the above documents usually provide me with sufficient information to understand the sometimes lengthy course of VA adjudication and begin developing a plan on how to remedy whatever issue is unresolved before the VA.
If you have questions regarding your eligibility for benefits before the Department of Veterans Affairs, please don’t hesitate to contact me at (732) 382-6070 or via email at sdirector@FRE-L.com.