Veterans Benefits Manual
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This exhaustive manual is an indispensable guide for advocates who help veterans and their families obtain benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
User-friendly, well-indexed, and packed with practical information, it includes sample forms and briefs, flowcharts, checklists, citations to legal authorities, and other documents designed to streamline the claims process and save you and your veteran client valuable time.
Written by practicing lawyers at the National Veterans Legal Services Program, this manual contains valuable insight and analysis from a team of experts on the front line of veterans law. Use their first-hand experience fighting for veterans' rights and their insider's view of the Department of Veterans Affairs to obtain the benefits your client earned.
The Veterans Benefits Manual contains dozens of effective, battle-tested advocacy tips for veterans and advocates along with all the latest developments in veterans law.
2021-2022 Edition Editors:
National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP)
Barton F. Stichman, Executive Director and co-founder of the National Veterans Legal Services Program
Ronald B. Abrams, Special Counsel and Former Joint Executive Director of the National Veterans Legal Services Program
Richard V. Spataro, Director of Training and Publications of the National Veterans Legal Services Program
Stacy A. Tromble, Director of Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims Litigation of the National Veterans Legal Services Program
The 2021-2022 edition of the Veterans Benefits Manual has been thoroughly updated with the important developments in veterans’ law over the past year. The most significant new information in the recent edition of the Manual has been about the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (AMA), which took effect on February 19, 2019. There is updated information in the 2021-2022 edition of the Manual about how the new modernized review system has been operating in practice. Most of that information appears in Chapters 12, 13, and 16. Highlights of the other updates include advocacy essentials such as:
- New advice for deciding which options to pursue to overcome BVA decisions denying legacy claims and claims subject to the new AMA system (Sections 14.1.1 and 14.1.2);
- Discussion of the recent changes to VA policies and procedures due to the COVID-19 pandemic (throughout Manual);
- A new section about how the BVA conducts virtual hearings (Section 13.4.3);
- New sections explaining why thousands of Vietnam veterans and their survivors are now entitled to millions of dollars in additional retroactive compensation for Agent Orange-related diseases (Sections 8.10, 8.11);
- Discussion of the VA's revisions to the disability rating schedule for musculoskeletal conditions (Section 5.2.9);
- A new section discussing the enhanced hearing procedures adopted by the Army Discharge Review Board and the thousands of Army veterans now entitled to have the Board reconsider their less than Honorable Discharges under more liberal review standards (Section 21.3.5);
- A new section about how military retirees become entitled to retroactive military retired pay as a direct result of a VA decision granting retroactive VA benefits (Section 8.12);
- Updated analysis of the rules governing entitlement to retroactive benefits based on service department records being added to the VA claims file after a final claim denial (Section 8.8.9);
- New guidance regarding entitlement to accrued benefits to reimburse individuals who bore the expense of a veteran's last illness or burial (Section 184.108.40.206.2); and
- Updates on eligibility for VA's Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers and advocacy tips for those applying for monthly stipends (Section 10.13).
- Updated information about the duty to assist activities transferred from the Joint Services Records Research Center to the VA Records Research Center (Section 18.4);
- Advocacy tips for appealing BVA decisions that violate or improperly rely on provisions of the VA Adjudication Procedures Manual M21-1 (Section 14.5.9);
- Discussion of the recent case law on extraschedular disability ratings and schedular ratings for ankylosis of joints (Sections 5.3 and 220.127.116.11);
The 2020-2021 Edition ISBN is 9781663302496.
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Table of contents
Chapter 1 Introduction And How to Use This Manual
PART I DISABILITY BENEFITS FOR VETERANS
Chapter 2 Veterans' Basic Eligibility For VA Benefits
Chapter 3 Compensation for Veterans with Service-Connected Disabilities
Chapter 4 VA Disability Benefits or Damages for Injury or Death Caused by VA Health
Care or Other VA Activities
Chapter 5 Setting, Increasing, or Reducing a Veterans' Service-Connected Disability
Chapter 6 Pension For Veterans with Non-Service-Connected Disabilities
PART II VA BENEFITS FOR NON-VETERANS
Chapter 7 VA Benefits For Family Members
PART III RULES AFFECTING THE AMOUNT OF BENEFITS PAID
Chapter 8 Effective Dates For Awards of Benefits
Chapter 9 Special Issues For Disability And Death Benefits
PART IV VA HEALTH CARE AND OTHER BENEFITS
Chapter 10 VA Health Care
Chapter 11 Other VA Benefits
PART V THE VA CLAIMS ADJUDICATION PROCESS
Chapter 12 Adjudication of Legacy and Modernized Claims by VA Regional Offices
Chapter 13 Board Of Veterans' Appeals
Chapter 14 Avenues Available to Correct Errors in Final BVA Decisions and Common
Errors Appealable to the Court
Chapter 15 Court Review of VA Decision-Making
PART VI ADVOCACY ON BEHALF OF VA CLAIMANTS
Chapter 16 Reviewing VA Claims Files
Chapter 17 Effective Advocacy Before the VA
Chapter 18 Obtaining Military Records And Information To Help Substantiate A Claim
Chapter 19 Attorney's and Agent's Fees Paid By VA Claimants Or By The VA
PART VII CORRECTION OF MILITARY RECORDS
Chapter 20 Military Records Correction Issues And Military Disability Benefits
Chapter 21 Upgrading Less Than Fully Honorable Discharges
TABLE OF CASES