Archive for February, 2010

ECA Participants Held To More Stringent Deadlines

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Veterans have long complained about the lengthy processing time of disability claims. In response to these complaints, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) introduced the Expedited Claims Adjudication (ECA) Initiative which was designed to speed up the processing of the claim(s) of anyone voluntarily participating in the program.

In order to participate in the ECA Initiative, however, participants must waive most of their due process rights related to the processing of their claim(s). Beyond that, participants must adhere to a slew of strict deadlines or face the ramifications of being forcibly removed from the ECA initiative. Should a veteran choose to participate in the ECA Initiative, they must be represented by either an attorney or the Veteran’s Service Organization (VSO) in order to participate.

The VA will continue to process the veteran’s disability claim(s) while the veteran is a participant in the ECA initiative. Choosing to participate in the ECA initiative means veterans agree to respond to any VA request for information and/or evidence necessary to authenticate their claim within 30 days of the date the request is mailed by doing one of the following:

  • Identifying all evidence pertinent to supporting the claim;
  • Providing the requested evidence; or
  • Denying the existence of the evidence outright.

If a participant needs help from the VA in acquiring identified records, however, the deadlines for the VA’s response are much more lenient. While the participant must respond to all VA requests for information within 30 days of the date the request is mailed, the VA has one year in which to receive the information requested from the participant. Keep in mind, the purpose of the ECA Initiative is to speed up processing of disability claims.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

The ECA Takes Total Control Of Veterans’ Claims

Friday, February 19th, 2010

The Expedited Claims Adjudication (ECA) Initiative was designed to allow voluntary participants to accelerate settling their disability claims and appeals process through the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA).

For many veterans who have already invested serious amounts of time and energy attempting to navigate the VA’s disability claims processes, being offered a quick settlement could be an attractive offer.

One of the many down sides to electing to participate in the ECA is the amount of control veterans must relinquish to the ECA. While all ECA participants trade many established due process rights for the possibility of a quicker settlement, they also give the ECA complete control over their claim(s).

Veterans must remember the disability claim is theirs and they should be in charge of their claims, not the ECA. If a veteran chooses to participate in the ECA Initiative, they must be represented by either an attorney or the Veteran’s Service Organization (VSO) in order to participate.

One thing to be understood in this process is the VA is still processing all disability claims, despite participation in the ECA. ECA Participants must acknowledge:

  • Should they fail to comply with any ECA set time limit;
  • Request an extension of any time limit and the request is not granted;
  • Fail to waive initial consideration by the participating Regional Office not considered in the Statement of the Case; or
  • Otherwise fail to substantially meet the terms of the ECA agreement and waiver of Rights as determined by the VA, the veteran’s participation in the ECA will be revoked.

At any time then, participants can be removed from the ECA Initiative for not substantially meeting the terms of the ECA agreement. By participating, veterans are placing themselves, and the future of their claim(s), into the hands of other people establishing rules for how they want veterans to handle their own claims.

To add insult to injury, at the same time, veterans are forced to abandon their due process rights in relation to their claim(s). Should the veteran be removed from the ECA, that claim(s) will then proceed through the regular VA claims processes.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

Veterans Forced To Relinquish Due Process Rights in ECA Initiative

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

The goal of the Expedited Claims Adjudication (ECA) Initiative was to help veterans have their claim(s) processed quicker than through traditional Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) methods. It was reasoned that veterans in need of a settled claim in a shorter amount of time would then participate in the ECA.

Problems arose when it was discovered that in order to participate in the ECA initiative, veterans must relinquish or waive many of their claimant and due process rights. For this reason, please be aware that if you plan on signing the ECA agreement and waiver, you must be represented by an attorney or the Veteran’s Service Organization (VSO) in order to participate.

Participants in the ECA agree to waive identified procedural processing issues and actions whenever requested by the VA. The VA will notify the veteran ECA participant of in a clear, written explanation explaining exactly what rights the veteran is waiving. If the ECA participant does not respond to the VA’s waiver request in 30 days and agree to waive all the procedural processing issues and actions, the ECA participant is removed from the ECA Initiative.

From that point on, the veteran’s claim(s) is processed by the VA, through the VA’s normal procedures, as if the veteran had never participated in the ECA. If there is an appeal and a hearing, however, the procedural matters waiver may be entered on the record at the time of the hearing.

So, while it may very well be the case that participating in the ECA Initiative will settle a claim quicker than the VA, it is also the case that in order to do so, participants must waive their due process rights. With that being said, nowhere does the ECA guarantee a claim will be approved. Should a disability claim be denied, and all due process rights have been waiver, the claimant is at the mercy of the ECA and their policies.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

ECA Dictates The Who, What, And Where Of Appealed Claims’ Hearings

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

On its face, the Expedited Claims Adjudication (ECA) Initiative is a good idea. To veterans desperately awaiting for their disability claim approval, participating in the ECA is a bridge to an easier claims process.

There are however, significant differences ff you file a substantive appeal on your claim(s) through the standard VA process then through the ECA initiative.  Processing your claim under the VA’s standard procedures gives veterans options when choosing the location of a hearing before the board:

  • An in-person hearing at the Board’s offices in Washington D.C.;
  • An in-person hearing before the Board at the local VA regional office; or
  • A hearing before the Board through the use of videoconference technology.

Conversely, the ECA places many more limits on the Board hearing. Should a veteran participate in the ECA and file a substantive appeal on a claim(s) to the Board:

  • That veteran will receive only one hearing before the Board;
  • The Board, after consulting with the veteran and his or her representative, will determine the type of hearing the veteran will receive so as to make it as timely as possible; and
  • An in-person hearing will be conducted in Washington, D.C. only if it is geographically convenient for the veteran and his or her representative, or if the veteran agrees to travel to Washington,  D.C. at the veteran’s expense.

The ECA requires its participants to voluntarily and severely limit their own due process rights during their disability claim process. While quick money seems like a good idea, there is always the chance your claim will not be approved and you will have limited your due process rights by participating in the ECA. For this reason, please be aware that if you plan on signing the ECA agreement and waiver, you must be represented by an attorney or the Veteran’s Service Organization (VSO) in order to participate.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

ECA Participants Punished For Filing Substantive Appeals

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

The promise of faster benefits and reduced wait times for claim adjudication is an attractive offer for those that require their benefit money to live. The Expedited Claims Adjudication Initiative (ECA), however, regularly requires participants to waive their due process rights in the hopes of a quick settlement.

Please be aware that if you plan on signing the ECA agreement and waiver, you must be represented by an attorney or the Veteran’s Service Organization (VSO) in order to participate.

The current Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) claims process states that a claimant has the right to have the Regional Office (RO) consider evidence submitted after the Statement of the Case (SOC) has been issued. The claimant also has the right to have a Supplemental Statement of the Case (SSOC) issued if there have been any material changes in any of the information of the SOC or any previous SOCs.

As an ECA participant however, should you pursue your appeal by filing a substantive appeal, you agree to

  • Waive the initial RO review of additional evidence submitted subsequent to a SOC being issued;
  • Waive any re-adjudication of your claim and issuance of any SSOC; and
  • Agree to have the Board of Veteran’s Appeals (Board) review the evidence in the first instance.

The participant must also agree that his or her claim may be granted or denied based on the Board’s review. Essentially then, as an ECA participant, any evidence submitted following a SOC being issued will not be reviewed locally by the same RO that adjudicated the original claim. Seemingly then, veterans are being punished by filing a substantive appeal on their case.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

ECA Participants Waive Right To Fair Review Of Evidence

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

While the current Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) claims adjudication and appeals process leaves something to be desired as far as their speed, they do hold one distinct advantage over the Expedited Claims Adjudication (ECA) Initiative: during the normal VA appeals process, Veterans retain their due process rights the entire time.

Electing to join the ECA means you will sign away many of your due process rights.

ECA participants must agree that if the VA obtains new evidence after a Statement of the Case (SOC) has been issued, and that veteran’s claim is not granted in full based on the new evidence, the VA will supply the claimant with a copy of the evidence. The VA will then request the claimant waive (1) review of the evidence by the participating Regional Office (RO), and (2) the issuance of any further required Supplemental Statement of the Case (SSOC).

If the claimant does not respond to the waiver within 30 days of receiving of the request, they end up waiving their right to all reviews of the new evidence obtained by the VA.

It sounds like the VA is threatening more than requesting a waiver. By participating in the ECA initiative, veterans must waive their due process right to a fair review of all the evidence in their case.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

The ECA Limits Timeline For Substantive Appeals

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

In an effort to speed up the time in which a claimant receives his or her settlement, the Expedited Claims Adjudication (ECA) Initiative drastically reduces deadlines across the board. In essence, by becoming an ECA participant, claimants are signing away their due process rights.

It seems like a small price to pay if you cannot survive without the money you are waiting on from your disability claim, but limiting your time in which you can file an appeal is not always the most effective way to handle a denied claim. It is for this reason that if you are planning on signing the ECA application and waiver, you must be represented by an attorney or the Veteran’s Service Organization (VSO) in order to participate.

Under normal Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) procedures, a claimant can file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) up to a year following an adverse decision on his or her claim. ECA participants, however, are limited to 60 days in which to file.

Along these same lines, VA standard operating procedures permit a claimant 60 days or the remainder of the one year period mentioned above, whichever is longer, to file a substantive appeal once a Statement of the Case has been mailed to the claimant. ECA participants, on the other hand, agree to waive this longer period of time. Under the ECA initiative, participants are given 30 days in which to file their substantive appeal from the date of mailing of the Statement of the Case.

Time lines this severely reduced can only do harm to those participating in the program. Being rushed with such important information can only lead to information being left out, or missing deadlines.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

ECA Initiative Changes Deadlines from 90 Days to 30

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

If the Expedited Claims Adjudication (ECA) Initiative demonstrates anything, it is that quicker is not always better. While many veterans are suspended in limbo awaiting an answer or appeal from the VA on their claim, the ECA promises quicker results for anyone becoming a participant. All you have to do to get this quicker result is sign away your due process rights.

One recurring theme throughout the ECA’s application and waiver is that the participant must waive or agree to severely limited time limits in which to act. While not every limitation is the same, being an ECA participant means paying attention to deadlines.

Under the usual Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) claim process, a claimant has 90 days from notification that their appeal was certified and transferred to the Board of Veteran’s Appeals (Board) in which to supply:

  • A request for a board hearing;
  • Additional evidence; or
  • Request a change in representation.

Should the claimant decide to become an ECA participant, this time line is cut by one third. ECA participants waive the 90 day allotted period and must submit all or any of the above within 30 days of notification the claimants appeal has been certified and transferred to the board.

30 days is not a lot of time in which to collect new or additional evidence and it means you have to be on top of filling out your requests, should you have them. As an ECA participant, you have to stay alert on the shortened time limits because they do severely impose on your rights.

Please be aware that if you plan on signing the ECA agreement and waiver, you must be represented by an attorney or the Veteran’s Service Organization (VSO) in order to participate.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

ECA Limits The Number Of Disability Claims Hearings Per Claim

Monday, February 15th, 2010

The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) is not known for its speedy adjudication of disability claims, especially once the claim is denied and appealed. Should a veteran proceed through the normal process of filing a claim, that veteran is almost unlimited in the amount of disability hearings that could be requested over the life of his or her claim.

Certainly then, The VA’s Expedited Claims Adjudication (ECA) initiative is an attractive offer to rush the settlement of a disability claim. By signing the ECA agreement and waiver, however, the veteran is limiting the possible number of disability hearings that can happen over the life of his or her claim.

Currently, veterans have the right to a hearing at any time on any issue involved a claim presently pending in front of a participating VA regional office (RO). Once that veteran becomes an ECA participant, those appellate rights are severely curtailed. Under the ECA initiative, if a veteran decides to request a hearing, that veteran will:

  • Have only one hearing on his or her claim(s) before the participating RO;
  • That hearing will be conducted by a VA Decision Review Officer (DRO); and
  • That hearing will only happen once an RO makes a decision on the claim.

So, instead of having one hearing at every stage of a claim’s life, the ECA initiative allows for one hearing over the entire life of the claim prior to the decision being made. Because of these types of limitations that can potentially cripple a veteran’s right to a disability claim, you must be represented by an attorney or the Veterans Service Organization (VSO) in order to participate in the ECA.

If you are a veteran who has been denied disability compensation by the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. We can appeal your rating decision and fight for your rights. You are entitled to certain programs and benefits based upon your VA rating decision so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

ECA Agreement Limits A Veteran’s Time To Appeal

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Many veterans are in dire straights waiting for a decision on their disability claim from the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). When offered a quicker way to possibly get their money, many veterans take advantage of the VA’s new Expedited Claims Adjudication (ECA) initiative. Under the guise of speeding up the processing of veteran’s claims, this initiative is stripping veterans of their rights.

Please be aware that if you plan on signing the ECA agreement and waiver, you must be represented by an attorney or the Veteran’s Service Organization (VSO) in order to participate.

Under the current VA system, when a veteran receives a VA decision on his or her claim, that veteran has one year from the date of the notice of the decision in which to begin his appeal process by filing a Notice of Disagreement (NOD).

Conversely, once that veteran signs the ECA agreement and agrees to become an ECA participant, that veteran cuts his own feet out from underneath him as far as appeals. The veteran signing the ECA agreement waives his right to take that year for appeals. The veteran signing the ECA agreement agrees to file a NOD for his VA claim within 60 days from the date of the notice of the decision.

Not only does the veteran waive his or her year in which to file for an appeal, the veteran agrees that if he or she does not appeal within the specific time period, the claim closes and can never be paid.

If you are a veteran who has been denied disability compensation by the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. We can appeal your rating decision and fight for your rights. You are entitled to certain programs and benefits based upon your VA rating decision so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.