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M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, Chapter 1, Section A – Process Overview


In This Section

This section contains the following topics:

1.  Overview of the Initial Mail Screening Process



This topic provides an overview of the initial mail screening process, including

Change Date

August 30, 2018

III.ii.1.A.1.a.  Purpose of Initial Mail Screening

The purpose of initial mail screening is to review all incoming applications, correspondence, and evidence to determine if a claim
  • warrants priority processing because of its nature or facts
  • is submitted with evidence that requires review by the rating activity
  • is incomplete and requires further development, or
  • warrants denial.
References:  For more information on

III.ii.1.A.1.b.  Overview of the Screening Process and Mail Flow

The table below provides an overview of the screening process.
Review all incoming material to determine whether it is
  • a claim or evidence in support of a claim
  • an issue in the correct jurisdiction, or
  • not a claim.
Depending on the nature of the material, determine whether it is necessary to
  • obtain additional evidence
  • refer the issue to another location or activity, or
  • dispose of the issue.
Take the appropriate action.
References:  For more information on

2.  Process for Conducting a Routine Check of Complete Claims



This topic contains information about conducting a routine check of original claims, including

Change Date

February 19, 2019

III.ii.1.A.2.a.  Responsibilities of the IPC or the Development Activity Upon Receipt of a Claim or Legacy Appeal

Responsibilities of the IPC or the development activity include
  • ensuring the claim or legacy appeal is substantially complete
  • verifying that basic eligibility exists
  • processing all submitted documents properly, and
  • updating the records using
    • the Share corporate database
    • the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS)
    • Modern Awards Processing – Development
    • Control of Veterans Records System
    • the Veterans Appeals Control and Locator System (VACOLS), and/or
    • Caseflow.
Reference:  For more information on substantially complete claims, see

III.ii.1.A.2.b.  Determining Benefits Sought and Type of Claim

Follow the steps in the table below to determine the type of claim.
Determine the type of benefit the claimant seeks, based on
  • the type of application the claimant submitted
  • information the claimant provided on the application, and
  • any other supporting evidence the claimant submitted.
Note:  All new claims submitted on or after March 24, 2015, must be filed on a standard Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) application form.
Reference:  For a list of application forms claimants must use to file a claim, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 2.B.1.b.
Since a claim for one benefit can also be a claim for other benefits, consider entitlement to other benefits, if applicable.
  • Once the type of claim has been determined, ensure the proper end product (EP) has been established.
  • Change the EP and/or claim label, or establish a new one, in VBMS or Share, if necessary.
Reference:  For information on proper EPs, see M21-4, Appendix B.

III.ii.1.A.2.c. Checking for the Proper Signature

A complete claim for any type of benefit must be signed by the
  • claimant
  • parent or guardian of a minor, or
  • fiduciary of a claimant who is incompetent.
  • An authorized representative may prepare and submit certain non-original claims on behalf of the claimant without the claimant’s signature as noted in M21-1, Part I, 3.A.4.b.
  • An alternate signer may sign a claim on behalf of the claimant in certain situations as discussed in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.C.3.
  • VA accepts signatures on applications that are photocopied or faxed.
  • VA waives the signature requirement when a claim is filed electronically by the claimant through a VA claims-submission service website.
References:  For more information on

III.ii.1.A.2.d.  Processing On-Line Applications Without a Signature

While normal development procedures and rules of evidence apply to on-line application claims, the signature requirement for a substantially complete claim is set aside when a claim is filed electronically through an on-line application.
The table below summarizes the steps for processing an on-line application for benefits that a claimant submits electronically.
Review the application to ensure it is substantially complete.
Establish the appropriate EP.  The date of claim is electronically printed in the upper corner of the on-line application.
Important:  Applications received from a VA claims-submission service website can be identified by several attributes as discussed in M21-1, Part III, Subpart i, 4.A.3.b.
Initiate development action by reviewing the claims folder to
  • determine what evidence is necessary to support the claim, and
  • request the evidence from the claimant.
Exception:  Claims may be submitted by powers of attorney through the Stakeholder Enterprise Portal (SEP) and do not require a signature.  However, original claims submitted through SEP involve additional claimant signature requirements to be substantially complete.
Reference:  For more information on claims for compensation submitted through SEP, including additional signature requirements for original claims, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart i, 4.B.2.

III.ii.1.A.2.e.  Checking for Basic Eligibility to the Benefit Sought

Consider the basic criteria for eligibility to the benefit sought.
Example:  If the claim is for pension, consider whether or not the Veteran has sufficient wartime service or if the income and net worth are within limits.
Reference:  For more information on VA benefit programs, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 2.A.

III.ii.1.A.2.f.  Checking for Character of Discharge

If the discharge document shows service that was not honorable, general, or under honorable conditions, review the claims folder for an administrative decision on the character of discharge (COD) or bar to benefits.
Use the table below to determine VA policies for reviewing the claims folder for an administrative decision.
If …
Then …
a decision has not been made
  • an unfavorable COD or statutory bar decision was made
  • the decision is valid under current regulations, and
  • entitlement to health care was not addressed in the decision
  • consider whether or not entitlement exists to the 38 U.S.C. 1710 health care provision of Public Law 95-126, enacted October 8, 1977, and
  • complete a rating decision for record purposes only in VBMS-Rating (VBMS-R) to include the new information.
Note:  Only the Chapter 17 statement may be added to an old decision as a rating decision for record purposes. All other revisions require a new decision.
  • an unfavorable decision has already been made, but there have been legislative or regulatory changes affecting the reason for the original unfavorable decision, or
  • the claimant filed a supplemental claim with new and relevant evidence after the first decision was made
prepare a new decision, adding information to address any
  • new laws that may apply, or
  • evidence submitted.
Note:  Provide the claimant 60 days to furnish additional evidence before finalizing an unfavorable decision.
Reference:  For information on the requirement for advance notice, seeM21-1, Part III, Subpart v, 1.B.1.f.

III.ii.1.A.2.g.Checking for Service Verification

Service verification can be accomplished in various ways.
Reference:  For more information on verifying service and COD, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 6.B.3.

III.ii.1.A.2.h.  Checking for Blank Spaces on the Application or Insufficient Information

If a claimant omits necessary information on an application, determine if it is substantially complete.
References:  For more information on

III.ii.1.A.2.i<i.  Checking for Acceptable Dependency Information</i

The table below shows the submission requirements for establishing dependents.
If the claim for dependents was received …
Dependency may be established by a(n) …
prior to March 24, 2015
  • written statement from a claimant for marital or dependency status if sufficient information is provided, including the
    • month, year, and place of the event (i.e., birth, marriage, adoption)
    • full name and relationship of the other person
    • Social Security number of the person, and
    • in cases in which the dependent child does not reside with the claimant, the name and address of the person having custody of the child, or
  • original document such as a marriage certificate, or a copy of an original document. If the copy does not appear genuine and free from alteration, the copy must be certified by
    • a public custodian of records
    • any VA employee who is authorized to administer oaths
    • certain representatives of Veterans service organizations
    • certain military personnel, or
    • certain officials of approved educational institutions.
on or after March 24, 2015
VA standard form as part of an original application for benefits or on dependency forms including VA Forms 21-686c, Declaration of Status of Dependents, and 21-674, Request for Approval of School Attendance.
Note:  Fields left blank on the application can be considered none as long as sufficient information is present to establish dependency.
References:  For more information on

3.  Screening Subsequent Claims for Pending Appeals



This topic describes screening and processing subsequent claims that may be duplicative of a pending appeal, including

Change Date

February 19, 2019

III.ii.1.A.3.a.  Screening Subsequent Claims for Pending Appeals

Always check for pending appeals when screening subsequent claims.
Identify pending
  • notices of disagreement at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) by checking Caseflow, and
  • legacy appeals by checking for a
    • 070 or 170 series EP under the CLAIMS tab in VBMS and reviewing the contentions, or
    • searching VACOLS and reviewing the ISSUES screen.
References:  For more information on

III.ii.1.A.3.b.  Processing Claims That Are Duplicative of a Legacy or BVA Appeal

When a claimed contention is an exact match for an issue under a legacy or BVA appeal, consider the contention duplicative of the legacy or BVA appeal and follow the procedures outlined in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.A.3.c to notify the claimant the issue will be processed under the pending appeal.
When a claimed contention is not an exact match of an issue under appeal, establish a claim for the contention in accordance with M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 3.D.
Note:  If an initial claim is already pending, the non-duplicative contention(s) should be added to the currently pending claim as discussed in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 3.D.2.c.
Reference:  For more information on determining if a legacy appeal is duplicative, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 3.E.

III.ii.1.A.3.c.  Informing the Claimant That a Claimed Contention Is Already on Appeal

Upon discovery that a claimed contention is duplicative of a pending legacy or BVA appeal, notify the claimant that the issue will be processed as part of the pending appeal.
Follow the steps in the table below to generate a letter informing the claimant of a duplicative contention.
Using the Letter Creator tool or equivalent letter in Personal Computer Generated Letters (PCGL), select the Claim Already on Appeal Letterunder the IPC tab.
Adjust the criteria in the brackets to match the facts found in the claim form.
Send the letter to the claimant.
Associate a copy of the letter with the claims folder.
If an issue on appeal was added as a contention in VBMS under a rating EP, delete the contention.
If the contention referenced in Step 5 is
  • the only claimed contention,
    • change the rating EP (if previously established) to an EP 400, and
    • clear the EP 400, or
  • not the only claimed contention, clear an EP 400.
References:  For more information on

4.  Individual and Group Responsibilities for Division Mail Management



This topic describes mail management, including

Change Date

September 30, 2010

III.ii.1.A.4.a. Importance of Effective Mail Management

Effective mail management is crucial to the success and control of workflow.

III.ii.1.A.4.b.  Individual and Group Responsibilities

The table below describes the individual and group responsibilities for establishing and following procedures for division of mail management and control.
Individual or Group
Veterans Service Center (VSC) or pension management center (PMC), IPC Coach
  • maintains a copy of the Mail Routing Guide
  • reviews the guide at least once a year to ensure it is current, and
  • designates at least one central point where VSC or PMC employees can deliver outgoing mail.
Note:  To eliminate unnecessary handling, the point of delivery for outgoing mail should also serve as the point of delivery for incoming mail.
Veterans Service Center Manager or Pension Management Center Manager
  • establishes explicit regional office (RO) delivery procedures for all categories of mail, and
  • ensures that procedures appear in the RO’s Mail Routing Guide.
Reference:  For more information on official VA mail procedures, see
Administrative Support Services Division
establishes local procedures for movement of all mail, including
  • delivery of incoming mail, and
  • pickup of outgoing mail.
Reference:  For more information on mailroom responsibilities, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart i, 1.2.c.
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