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M21-1, Part III, Subpart i, Chapter 4, Section B – The Stakeholder Enterprise Portal (SEP) Role in the Veterans Online Application (VONAPP) Direct Connect (VDC) Process

Overview


In This Section

This section contains the following topics:
Topic
Topic Name
1
2

1.  Introduction to SEP


Introduction

This topic contains information about SEP and how the system interacts with Veterans Benefits Administration systems through VDC, including


Change Date

March 15, 2018

III.i.4.B.1.a.  Purpose of SEP

The Stakeholder Enterprise Portal (SEP) is a secure and seamless web-based entry portal for Veterans service organizations (VSOs), claim agents, and private attorneys who provide services to claimants or conduct business with the Veterans Benefits Administration.
Through SEP these Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) external stakeholders can

Note:  The VA Form 21-22aAppointment of Individual As Claimant’s Representative, is not available for private attorneys and claims agents to manage online through SEP.


III.i.4.B.1.b.  VDC Interview Process in SEP

For claims submission, SEP utilizes the same interview process found in the Veterans Online Application (VONAPP) Direct Connect (VDC).  This interview process limits omissions and misinterpretations of information requested from the claimant for adjudicating a claim.

Currently, VDC contains an interview process for claimant’s representatives for the following forms:

References:  For more information on


III.i.4.B.1.c.  Establishment of POA Through VDC/SEP

VDC allows claimants to elect a VSO to represent them during the claims process as their power of attorney (POA).
The table below outlines the process that occurs when a claimant selects a VSO as their POA in VDC.
Stage
Description
1
Upon submission, the VA Form 21-22 loads into the VSOs representation request dashboard in SEP.
Note:  The VA Form 21-22 will not appear in the electronic claims folder (eFolder).
2
The VSO reviews the representation request.
If representation by the POA is …
Then VDC will automatically …
accepted
  • upload VA Form 21-22 to the eFolder within 24-48 hours
  • update the corporate database in real time with the newly elected POA information, and
  • notify the claimant of the accepted representation via the eBenefits message center.
rejected
notify the claimant of the rejected representation via the eBenefits message center.
Important:  Any automated POA established through SEP is valid for VA purposes and not subject to the requirements of paper VA Form 21-22 processing.
Notes:
  • The signature blocks on the VA Form 21-22 will contain the signature text as indicated by
    • //es// First Initial + Last Name of claimant, and
    • //es// First Initial + Last Name of the VSO Representative.
  • Due to a technical issue, VA Form 21-22s submitted through VDC/SEP between March 22, 2015, and May 3, 2015, do not show an electronic signature of the claimant. The forms without an electronic signature from this period remain valid for VA purposes.
  • In rare circumstances, the VA Form 21-22 may not correctly upload to the eFolder.  Claims processors may presume that a POA was legitimately established using the VDC/SEP process if a review of the POA history on the ALL RELATIONSHIPS tab (accessible via the CORPORATE INQUIRY command) in Share shows that the POA appointment update was performed by VAEBENEFITS.
  • Claims processors must contact the Enterprise Veterans Self Service (EVSS) Helpdesk if the VA Form 21-22 is not of record and more than 48 hours have passed since the appointment of the POA via VDC/SEP.  In this specific situation, do not follow the failure-to-upload procedure described in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 4.D.6.
Reference:  For more information on

2.  Claims for Compensation Submitted Through SEP


Introduction

This topic contains information regarding submission of claims for compensation through SEP, including


Change Date

April 21, 2017

III.i.4.B.2.a.  Overview of Original Claims Submission Through SEP

Through SEP, representatives holding POA can submit original claims for compensation benefits.  However, submission through SEP must comply with all policies regarding original claims.
POAs submitting original claims can comply with the signature requirements inM21-1, Part I, 1.B.1.b via the
  • uploaded personalized signature page method, and/or
  • checkmark solution.

Note:  POAs will be prompted to complete one of these two methods for original claim submission.  The POA is required to do one or the other and not both.

Reference:  For more information on which forms a POA may not sign, see M21-1, Part I, 3.A.4.b.


III.i.4.B.2.b.  Uploaded Personalized Signature Page Method

A personalized signature page download is available to POAs during the VDC interview process in SEP.

The personalized signature page contains

  • the claimant’s name
  • the claims file number, and
  • Section V: Claim Certification and Signature from VA Form 21-526EZ.

Upon completion, the VA Form 21-526EZ and personalized signature page are uploaded into VBMS.  The personalized signature page will appear in VBMS with the document type label Signature page VDC submitted 21-526EZ.


III.i.4.B.2.c. Personalized Signature Page Validation Procedure

Follow the steps in the table below to validate the personalized signature page for an original claim for compensation benefits.
Step
Action
1
Open and review the VA Form 21-526EZ.
If the claim …
Then a signature is …
meets the criteria of an original claim for benefits, as described in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 2.B.1.b
required for the claim to be substantially complete.
is a non-original claim
not required to be substantially complete.  No further actions in this block are necessary.
2
Review Sections V and VII of the VA Form 21-526EZ.  Determine if the
  • VETERAN/SERVICE MEMBER/ALTERNATE SIGNER SIGNATURE block of Section V contains an “X” followed by the claimant’s typed name, and
  • POA/AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE SIGNATURE block of Section VII contains the electronic signature of a POA with an Office of General Counsel (OGC) designated code number.
If the signature blocks are …
Then …
completed as indicated above
the claim has been signed using the checkmark solution.
  • Add any pertinent special issue indicators (such as the fully developed claim (FDC) indicator if the claimant has chosen to participate in the program), and
  • continue processing the claim.  No further actions in this table are necessary.
not completed
a separate signature page is required.
Reference:  For more information on the checkmark solution, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart i, 4.B.2.f.
3
Locate the separate signature page in the eFolder and open it.  The document will be labeled Signature page VDC submitted 21-526EZ and correspond to the submitted claim.
If the corresponding document …
Then the …
  • cannot be located, or
  • is not a VA Form 21-526EZsignature page with the appropriate imaged wet signature of the claimant
application fails to meet the signature requirements for a substantially complete claim.  Proceed to the next step to determine the appropriate actions to take.
is a VA Form 21-526EZ signature page with the appropriate imaged wet signature of the claimant
claim has been signed with a valid signature.
  • Add any pertinent special issue indicators (such as the FDC indicator if the claimant has chosen to participate in the program), and
  • continue processing the claim.  No further actions in this table are necessary.
4
Use the table below to determine the proper course of action when an original claim submitted through SEP fails to meet the signature requirements for a substantially complete claim.
If the date of receipt is …
Then consider the application …
prior to March 24, 2015
an informal claim for benefits and
  • change the end product (EP) to an EP 400
  • develop to the claimant for a valid signature page as outlined inM21-1, Part III, Subpart i, 4.B.2.d, and
  • upon completion of development to the claimant, clear the EP.
Reference:  For more information on informal claims, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 2.C.1.
on or after March 24, 2015
not substantially complete and
  • develop to the claimant for a valid signature page as outlined inM21-1, Part III, Subpart i, 4.B.2.d, and
  • return a printed copy of the application from VBMS, making sure to include the signature page.

III.i.4.B.2.d.  Developing to the Claimant for a Valid Signature Page for SEP Claims

When developing for a signature page for original claims submitted in VDC without a valid signature page or signature, take the following actions:

  • send the claimant a copy of the VA Form 21-256EZ signature page, and
  • in the development letter include the language below:

We have received your online application for compensation benefits submitted by your power of attorney, (insert POA name here), through the SEP (Stakeholder Enterprise Portal). However, the claim submitted did not include (insert reason signature page is not valid).

Please sign and return the enclosed signature page. You have one year from the date of this letter to return a signed signature page to preserve any potential effective date based on your initial claim submission.

We will take no further action on your claim until we receive a signed signature page.


III.i.4.B.2.e.  Subsequent Receipt of Signature Page for SEP Claims

When VA receives the signature page within one year of the date of the signature page development letter

  • consider the claim substantively complete
  • re-establish the rating end product with a date of claim matching the receipt of the completed signature page, and
  • use the receipt date of the VA Form 21-526EZ as the effective date for the claim.

III.i.4.B.2.f.  Checkmark Solution

The signature requirements in M21-1, Part I, 1.B.1.b are met using the checkmark solution during the SEP interview process, when

  • the claimant, in the presence of the POA, checks a box affirming the information found on the VA Form 21-526EZ, Section V: Claim Certification and Signature, and
  • the POA checks a box affirming witness to the claimant providing the claim certification and signature as outlined in the previous action.

III.i.4.B.2.g.Identifying Original Claims Submitted Using the Checkmark Solution

To identify claims submitted using the checkmark solution, open the VA Form 21-526EZ to page 10 and verify the

  • VETERAN/SERVICE MEMBER/ALTERNATE SIGNER SIGNATURE block of Section V contains an “X” followed by the claimant’s typed name, and
  • the SIGNATURE OF WITNESS block of Section VI contains the electronic signature of a POA with an OGC designated code number.

III.i.4.B.2.h.Signature Page Characteristics for Non-Original Claims Submitted Through SEP

Non-original claims submissions by POAs through SEP
  • do not require claimant or POA signatures, and
  • may result in a blank signature block on the VA Form 21-526EZ.
Note:  Although not required, the POA may choose to use the checkmark solution or upload the signature page.

III.i.4.B.2.i.Electronic Section 5103 Notice Through eBenefits for Claims Submitted in SEP

eBenefits e-mails a generic electronic Section 5103 notice to the claimant for every claim filed by a POA in SEP.  A sample of the notification letter sent to the claimant is shown below.
From: <VONAPPDirectConnectdonotrelplyemailbox@va.gov>
Date: Sunday, July 20, 2014
Subject: Application for Compensation Benefits submitted
To: JoeVeteran@gmail.com

Dear Veteran,

Disabled American Veterans, your representative for VA Claims, has successfully submitted a Compensation Benefits Application on your behalf.

Your confirmation number is XXXXXXX. Your submission includes the following documents:

  • VA Form 21-526: Application for Disability Compensation

We have provided a copy (PDF) of the Notice to Veteran/Service Member of Evidence to Substantiate a Claim for Veterans Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits in response to your Compensation Benefits Application. The document provides you with useful information about how your compensation claim will be decided by VA.

Please download and print the document for your records. This download link will expire approximately one year from the date of your claim.

Notes:
  • Claims processors must review the claim to determine if a supplemental Section 5103 notice is needed.
  • SEP will generate and upload a completed VA Form 21-526EZ based on responses to the interview process.  However, the claimant may refuse rapid processing under the FDC Program by indicating so in SECTION V: CLAIM CERTIFICATION AND SIGNATURE of VA Form 21-526EZ.
  • When the claimant opts out of the FDC Program, the claimant is provided a 30-day period to review the e-mailed Section 5103 notice and provide additional information, if necessary.  A decision on the claim should not be made before the 30-day review period expires, unless
    • a full grant of benefits can be made, or
    • all necessary development is complete, and
    • a waiver of the 30-day period has been provided by the claimant or authorized representative.

III.i.4.B.2.j.  System Annotations on Claim Documents Submitted Through SEP

Claim documents submitted through SEP receive annotations on the top left corner of all pages on the VA Form 21-526EZ, showing

  • a date/time stamp with a notation that the claim was electronically submitted
  • a statement noting the claim was submitted by the POA, and
  • a statement that the Section 5103 notice was e-mailed/messaged to the claimant.
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