- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

I have a copy of my DD 214 (Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty), but it does not have my service number on it. I do have another paper that states that my papers were sent to me on 16 September 1986, to 4809 Tilden Drive, San Jose, Calif. 95124, but I never received them. (That property is no longer there. It was removed and is now part of Highway 85.) The only numbers I have are: Orders D-09-066694 DARP- PAT-R (N1), as I do not know my service number.

I am trying to obtain a letter of eligibility for a VA loan. I can furnish you with my Social Security number if you need it I just do not feel safe throwing it out on the Internet. Any and all time you spend on this matter is greatly appreciated.

My unit was the 519th ASA Co Mt, View Ca. Separation Authority Para 5-15 AR 635-200 Honorable. Please let me know of anything else you may need from me.Thanks.

Lloyd D.
Via the Internet

Dear Lloyd:

My sources tell me that you should have all that you need to complete VA Form 26-1880, which is available at the following website: https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-26-1880-ARE.pdf. You probably didn’t have a service number, but your Social Security number should be sufficient.

Shaft notes

• The Department of Veterans Affairs recently hosted an event for 10 Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) to collaborate in VA’s effort to eliminate the claims backlog.

The main focus of the workshop was VA’s emphasis on the shared goal of better serving veterans and positive impact of filing Fully Developed Claims (FDC). Participation in the FDC program is completely optional, and allows for faster claims processing, while preserving a veteran’s right to appeal a decision.

“VA prides itself on our ongoing partnership with organizations that represent veterans throughout the VA claims process,” said Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey. “They are at the frontlines and have a major role in our ability to transform our claims process, starting with fully-developed claims.”

Claims are considered to be “fully developed” when veterans submit all available supporting evidence, like private treatment records and notice of federal treatment records, to VA at the time they first file a formal claim and certify they have no more evidence to submit.

VA gathers all federal records the veterans identify, like those from VA Medical Centers and the Social Security Administration. VA will also send the veterans for a VA medical examination, if needed. The early submittal of evidence and certification by the veteran allow VA to start processing the claim immediately, without holding it for mandatory wait periods.

Veterans and their representatives do much of the development that typically takes VA 175 days to gather. Currently, FDC claims take an average of 110 days to decide compared to 254 days through the traditional claims method.

Part of the workshop featured a discussion lead by Chicago Regional Office Director Duane Honeycutt on how VA’s regional offices and VSO field staff can work together to increase the number of FDCs veterans file. The Chicago Regional Office is one example of recent successes in reducing the time it takes to process a claim by working with veteran representatives to increase FDC claims. Currently, FDC make up 10 percent of the RO’s claims, compared to just 3 percent nationwide.

“VA, veterans representatives and veterans all have a stake in the claims process,” Mr. Honeycutt said. “We continue to operate under the mantra, ‘Grant if you can; deny if you must,’ but more often than not, the challenge to obtain certain evidence that allows us to grant the claim. That is why partnering with the VSO’s to increase the number of fully developed claims that are submitted is so important. “

Mr. Honeycutt said FDC involves veterans in the process and allows them more control over their claims. Their reward is a claim that is finished in substantially less time.

“DAV has National Service Officers located in every regional office,” said Jim Marszalak, assistant service director with Disabled American Veterans. “Our NSOs in the Chicago Regional Office started using the FDC program and have seen a dramatic amount of time shaved off waiting times. It has also minimized the amount of appeals we file on our veterans’ behalf.”

Using VA Form 21-526EZ, veterans can file FDC for disability compensation. VA Form 21-527EZ allows veterans to file for a non-service connected pension. The FDC forms — found at https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-526EZ-ARE.pdf and https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-527EZ-ARE.pdf — include information on what evidence is VA’s responsibility and what evidence is the veteran’s responsibility.

For more information on the Fully Developed Claims program, visit https://benefits.va.gov/transformation/fastclaims/.

• The Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced that it is moving forward with a plan to provide burial services for veterans in rural areas where there are no available VA national cemeteries, state veterans cemeteries or tribal veterans cemeteries.

“VA is committed to improving service to veterans in rural areas,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “Through an innovative partnership with existing cemeteries, we will be able to ensure burial for veterans in more locations that meet the high standards of national shrines.”

Under the Rural Initiative plan, VA will build small National Veterans Burial Grounds within existing public or private cemeteries in rural areas where the unserved veteran population is 25,000 or less within a 75-mile radius.

VA plans to open eight National Veterans Burial Grounds that will serve veterans in the areas of Fargo, N.D.; Rhinelander, Wis.; Cheyenne, Wyo.; Laurel, Mont.; Idaho Falls, Idaho; Cedar City, Utah; Calais, Maine; and Elko, Nev.

VA officials will announce further details about the eight new burial grounds as information becomes available. This new initiative will make VA burial options available to more than 136,000 veterans and their eligible dependents.

Veterans with a discharge issued under conditions other than dishonorable, their spouses and eligible dependent children can be buried in a VA national cemetery.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email sgtshaft@bavf.org.

• Sgt. Shaft can be reached at .

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