Delays at the VA are nothing new. Veterans are already aware that initial claims can take months to process, and that appeals can take years, depending on the Appeals Modernization Act lane chosen by the Veteran. This is why it is so important to work with an experienced VA Accredited Attorney to develop an appeal strategy.
More recently, however, Veterans have seen letters from the VA arriving several weeks and even a month or more after the date on the letter itself. Often, the delay is immaterial, but when it comes to such things as “Development Letters” sent by the VA to a Veteran, which generally have a 30-day response deadline, a month delay can be problematic and stressful.
VA Mail Delays Are Not A New Problem
Back in 2017, the Government Accountability Office published a report outlining the various problems the VA was having with outgoing mail. Auditors found several deficiencies relating to tracking, standardization, and cost management. Basically, the VA was lacking internal controls on its mail systems.
In modernizing the process, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) has moved to a centralized mail facility. Basically, when the VBA makes a decision on benefits or asks the Veteran for more information, or simply provides an update, instead of mailing it from whatever office the Veterans Service Representative (VSR) happens to work at, the VSR sends the document to the centralized mailing facility for assembly and mailing.
This centralized mailing facility is now backlogged, sometimes by as much as two to three weeks.
Complicating things is that the date on the letter inside the envelope is the date the VSR sent the mail to the centralized mail facility, not the date that the centralized mail facility actually printed the mail and stuff it in the envelope.
Combine that with the overall slow-down in the mail from through the United States Postal Service, and the end result is mail arriving anywhere from three to five or more weeks after the date on the envelope.
What does this mean?
What happens if a Veteran receives a letter requesting a response within a certain amount of time, but that time has expired? There is no clear-cut answer. Sometimes it means respond anyway and include a note in the response that indicates when the mail was received.
The VBA is aware of the delay and has shifted resources to solving the delays. There are also unconfirmed reports of the VA adding what amounts to grace periods on certain timelines, however, these are unconfirmed, and Veterans should not rely on grace periods, and respond to requests from the VA as soon as possible.
The VA has also discussed the possibility of switching to electronic notification instead of, or in conjunction with paper mail, however, it is not clear when this might occur.
Get the Help You Need from an Experienced Veterans Advocacy Lawyer
While an accredited VA Benefits Attorney might not be able to make the VA mail things faster, they can help in developing the best strategy for a particular case. A good strategy can reduce the need for unnecessary appeals and wasted time. Contact a seasoned veterans advocacy lawyer at the Law Office of Andrew P. Gross for professional assistance.