When applying or appealing a VA disability claim, there will be numerous letters and correspondence from the VA to you regarding your claim. One of the most common questions from our clients is what to do regarding VCAA notices. In today’s post, we will go over all of what a VCAA notice is and what they entail.
What is a VCAA Notice?
A VCAA notice is a letter that is sent to a veteran or claimant from the VA informing a veteran of what information is needed to help support their claim for benefits. The VA has a “duty to assist” veterans and claimants in claiming their disability benefits. This basically means that the VA is required to notify the veteran or claimant of what information is needed to help support their claim for benefits. The VA also has a duty to assist the veteran or claimants in obtaining the information that they are requesting. The VA will attempt to obtain the information and/or evidence requested within one year of the date of the notice.
VCAA stands for Veterans Claims Assistance Act. The VCAA was passed by Congress in the year 2000 to develop the VA’s duty to assist. With this act in place, the VA was then required to send notice letters to veterans and claimants to inform them of additional evidence required for their claim.
The VA will send a VCAA notice after initially receiving a claim for benefits. These notices can be general or can request specific pieces of evidence. The VCAA notices will state that a reply is needed within 30 days. It will also state that the VA is working on your claim. For general notices, some evidence the VA can request are the following:
- Treatment record related to the claim conditions
- Disability Benefits Questionnaires
- Request for a VA Form 21-4142 Authorization to Disclose Information and VA Form 21-4142a General Release for Medical Provider Information
- Lay or witness statements
What Else Does a VCAA Notice Do?
Not only do VCAA notices inform veterans and claimants of evidence required to support their claim, but they can also notify a veteran of an upcoming Compensation and Pension (C&P) Exam. It is a good idea to read through this notice thoroughly not only to be notified of a C&P exam but to also make sure that this notice is not asking for something specific such as a copy of your DD214 or medical records from a specific provider that the VA has not been able to obtain by requesting a veteran’s medical records themselves.
If a veteran has applied for individual unemployability benefits, the VA will send a VCAA notice informing the veteran that they have sent a request to their last employer to complete and return a VA Form 21-4192, Request for Employment Information. With the VA’s “duty to assist”, they will follow up with their request in writing to a veteran’s previous employer.
An important component to consider regarding VCAA notices are the deadlines that are given. Most notices give a 30-day deadline to respond with the evidence or information that the notice is requesting. Ideally, responding to the VA with the evidence as soon as possible before the 30-day deadline would be the best option. If a veteran or claimant does not respond to the VA with the requested evidence within the 30-day deadline or choose not to respond at all, the VA will continue to process the claim after the deadline has passed. It is important to note, that if the VA does not have the information or evidence that they requested and was not able to obtain the information themselves as part of their “duty to assist”, this may result in a delay in rendering a decision or a denied claim.