Tester, Moran Urge VA Action to Safeguard Veterans’ Earned Compensation and Pension Benefits

Veterans’ Affairs Committee leaders call on VA Secretary to reexamine the Department’s plan to address delayed mail notices

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) are urging Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough to protect veterans from losing their earned compensation and pension benefits as a result of administrative and mailing issues in the federal government.

“Veterans may be at risk of losing their earned compensation and pension benefits as a result of administrative and mailing issues at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Government Printing Office,” the Senators wrote in a letter. “Last fall, these issues created circumstances in which veterans and their families faced significant delays in receiving notification letters regarding their disability claims and the process for protesting decisions related to those claims. During this delay, VA told Congress they were providing an extension to any veteran’s response required by those letters. While we appreciate the response due-date extension, we urge you to reexamine the Department’s plan to deal with these delayed notices so that claimants are not unfairly penalized.”

In November of 2021, the Department announced a 90-day extension for letters dated between July 31 and December 31, 2021. As a result, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) announced that it would not take adverse action to deny, reduce or terminate benefits and services to a veteran, unless a claimant fails to respond in a timely manner—which could result in forfeited benefits.

The Senators strongly urged the Administration to reconsider this unfair policy stating, “At a minimum, VA should hold claimants harmless so they are not unduly affected by a bureaucratic and governmental problem not of their own making. Press releases and social media outreach do not guarantee contact with those who expect notices via mail. VBA should make every effort to establish positive interaction with impacted veterans; further extend or waive deadlines on behalf of the veteran; or provide other ways to reopen claims that VBA closes adversely due to notice and deadline issues.”

As part of their longtime push to hold VA accountable in delivering veterans timely access to their earned benefits, Tester and Moran recently introduced their Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2021, a bipartisan bill that would authorize VA to provide instant, electronic notification of disability claims decisions—allowing for quicker delivery of benefits, especially amidst administrative and COVID-related mail delays. This bipartisan priority advanced out of Committee last month with unanimous support.

Read the Senators’ full letter HERE.