What Happens if the VA Fails to Mail Your Decision?
The VA is supposed to send all decisions to claimants and their representatives. However, the VA sometimes fails to mail decisions in a timely fashion, or fails to mail them at all. This means that veterans and their advocates are left without notification of decisions and may miss appeal deadlines.
The VA has a centralized mailing facility for incoming mail called the Evidence Intake Center (EIC), where mail is received and scanned into the VA’s system. The VA however, does not have a similar system for outgoing VA mail. There are currently 53 VA Regional Offices, all of which could have a unique process for outgoing mail.
Over the past several years, the VA has failed to send decisions to claimants and their representatives. If a decision is not sent to a claimant, or it is sent late, there is a risk of a veteran not being able to appeal that decision. If a veteran misses the appeal deadline, they must refile their claim and start the entire process over again. This means that their effective dates can be impacted and the process will take even longer.
What Happens When an Appeal Deadline is Missed?
If an appeal deadline is missed as a result of the VA not mailing a decision, the veteran can still appeal the decision and explain that the appeal is timely as the VA did not give proper notice of the decision.
Under the Presumption of Regularity, VA employees are presumed to have done their jobs correctly unless it can be proven otherwise. Filing an appeal after the deadline due to the VA’s failure to mail a decision must include the appeal itself, but also an appeal to prove that the appeal for benefits is timely and rebut the Presumption of Regularity.
However, it can take years for the VA to acknowledge that an appeal is timely before they will take up the issue of entitlement to benefits. This means that the VA’s failure to mail a decision can cause a significant delay in a veteran’s case.
What is the Law?
38 U.S.C. states that the VA must mail claimants and their representatives notice of a decision in a timely manner. The corresponding regulation is 38 CFR 3.103(b) which states that claimants and their representatives must be notified of any decision impacting the “payment of benefits or granting of relief”. The VA’s manual instructs VA employees to mail decisions.
Bosley & Bratch have been supporting veterans in getting the benefits they deserve since 1995. Call Bosley & Bratch at (727) 274-9227 or complete our free veterans benefits case evaluation form.