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M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, Chapter 1, Section B – Mail Management

Overview


In This Section

This section contains the following topics:
Topic
Topic Name
1
2
3
4
5
6
Handling Returned Undeliverable Mail

1.  Classifying Mail


Change Date

February 19, 2019

III.ii.1.B.1.a.  Classes of Mail

The table below describes the four classes of mail Veterans Service Centers (VSCs) and pension management centers (PMCs) routinely handle.
Mail Class
Description
Incoming
Mail pertaining to claims for benefits that originates from outside the regional office (RO). It includes the following four subclasses:
  • priority mail
  • action mail
  • file mail, and
  • unidentified mail.
Important:  If any Federal tax information (FTI) is received, follow proper handling and storage procedures.
References:  For more information about
In-Process
Mail pertaining to an issue the RO is already controlling/tracking through applications that include
  • Share
  • the Veterans Appeals Control and Locator System (VACOLS)
  • Modern Awards Processing – Development (MAP-D)
  • the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS), and
  • Caseflow.
References:  For more information about
Miscellaneous
Mail that neither constitutes an original claim for benefits (thereby requiring the creation of a claims folder) nor can be associated with an existing claims folder. It includes the following two subclasses:
  • unidentifiable mail, and
  • undeliverable mail.
Reference:  For more information about handling miscellaneous mail, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.B.3.
Outgoing
Mail released to outside entities.  It includes the following three subclasses:
  • express mail
  • intraoffice mail, and
  • regular/routine outgoing mail.
Reference:  For more information about handling outgoing mail, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.B.4.
Reference:  For more information about the entities within an RO that are responsible for mail management, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.A.4.

2.  Handling Incoming Mail


Introduction

This topic contains instructions for handling incoming mail, including

Change Date

February 19, 2019

III.ii.1.B.2.a.  Subclasses of Incoming Mail

The table below describes the four subclasses of incoming mail.
Subclass
Description
Priority
Mail related to claims fitting the criteria identified in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.D.1.a require priority processing.
Notes:
  • Mail from members of Congress is considered priority mail and should be handled using the special controlled correspondence procedures identified inM27-1, Part I, 5.5.
  • Representatives’ copies of communications that are centrally printed and returned to the RO of jurisdiction(ROJ) under the Centralized Benefits Communications Management (CBCM) program, as specified in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.B.2.c, require priority processing.
  • RO management may decide to include additional types of mail in this subclass.
Action
All forms and letters requiring action or response by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that the RO
  • receives from outside sources, and
  • does not consider priority mail.
File
Mail that requires no action or response by VA. This includes copies of system-generated letters that the Hines and Philadelphia information technology centers send to ROs for record-keeping purposes only.
Unidentified
Mail that does not reference a Veteran or cannot be associated with a Veteran because the mail does not contain sufficient information about the Veteran to allow for accurate identification.

III.ii.1.B.2.b.  Handling Priority and Action Mail

ROs screen and process mail packages uploaded to the Centralized Mail (CM) portal.
Note:  Compensation and Pension mail received at ROs is shipped directly to the scanning vendors without prescreening.
References:  For more information on

III.ii.1.B.2.c.  Handling Veterans Service Organization Copies Returned From Centralized Printing

Copies of communications for Veterans service organization (VSO) representatives that are centrally printed as part of CBCM will be mailed to the ROJ for local distribution by RO personnel.
Important:
  • Do not send any correspondence to the scanning facilities, as this will duplicate the letters which already exist in the electronic claims folder (eFolder).
  • Do not shred VSO copies.  They must be delivered to the service organization.
Reference:  For more information on centralized printing, receipt and dissemination, see Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) Learning Catalog – CBCM Phase One – Centralized Printing (4415957).

III.ii.1.B.2.d.  Placing Claims and 800 Series Work Items Under EP Control

ROs use VBMS, Share, and other computer applications to control pending workload.  This workload is not limited to claims for VA benefits, as it also includes electronic 800 series work items, which are computer-generated notices that require action by the RO that receives them.
When establishing control in VBMS or Share, users must select/enter the minimum required information shown in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 3.D.2.
M21-4, Appendix B contains guidelines for determining the correct date of claim (DOC).  The table below provides information about exceptions to the general DOC guidelines.
When …
Then …
establishing control of a pre-discharge claim
use a future DOC (the day after the anticipated date of separation from service).
Exception:  If the pre-discharge claim will be processed in VBMS, follow the instructions in the VBMS Job Instruction Sheet – Pre-Discharge Claim Establishment.
an RO employee prematurely cleared or closed a pending end product (EP)
reestablish control, using
  • EP 930, and
  • the DOC of the EP that was prematurely cleared.
establishing a control EP (130, 290, 310, etc.) for an 800 series work item
use a DOC which matches the date of the 800 series work item.
Note:  If no date is shown, use the date the RO initiated review of the work item.
Important:  If a possible under/overpayment could result from the 800 series work item (such as removal of dependents to an earlier payment date), VSCs must use the Potential Under/Overpayment special issue with a controlling EP to monitor timeliness in completing action on potential under/overpayments. For more information on monitoring timeliness in completing action on potential under/overpayments, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.C.7.
Note:  E-mails received at VA facilities are uploaded to VBMS as portable document format (PDF) documents. The sent date on the saved document represents the date received; therefore, the sent date will be used as the DOC.
References:  For more information about

III.ii.1.B.2.e.  Handling File Mail

Upload all file mail to a claims folder.
Important:  Do not place file mail under control in any claims processing system.
References:  For more information on

III.ii.1.B.2.f.  Handling Unidentified Mail

If a return address exists for mail that does not reference a Veteran or cannot be associated with a Veteran because the mail does not contain sufficient information to allow for accurate identification
  • download and print the mail from the CM portal
  • return the mail to the sender, and
  • ask the sender to
    • identify the Veteran to whom the mail refers, and/or
    • provide sufficient information (claim number, Social Security number (SSN), branch of service, dates of service, etc.) to allow VA to identify the Veteran within its systems of record.
If no return address exists, follow the instructions in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.B.5 for handling unidentifiable mail.
Important:  The mail packet must be uploaded to the CM Unidentifiable Mail Queue in either scenario.

III.ii.1.B.2.g.  Handling In-Process Mail

Upon identifying in-process mail, follow the procedure outlined in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.E.5.d.

III.ii.1.B.2.h. Handling Unsolicited Evidence

All evidence received that does not correspond to a pending tracked item must be accurately recorded with the proper receipt date using the MANAGE EVIDENCE screen in VBMS, or the EVIDENCE tab in MAP-D.
Important:  Do not use VA-specific abbreviations or jargon when entering evidence description.  Plain language should be used whenever possible as it will be visible through eBenefits.
References:  For more information on

3.  Handling Miscellaneous Mail


Introduction

This topic contains instructions for handling miscellaneous mail, including

Change Date

September 6, 2018

III.ii.1.B.3.a.Descriptions of Miscellaneous Mail

The table below describes the categories of miscellaneous mail.
Mail Category
Description
Unidentifiable
Mail with no return address or identifiable information needed to create a
  • corporate record, or
  • claims folder.
Undeliverable
Correspondence VA sent to a claimant, beneficiary, or third party that the United States Postal Service (USPS) subsequently returned due to an insufficient or invalid address, expired forwarding order, or inability to identify the addressee.
Reference:  For more information about claim jurisdiction and transferring claims folders into and out of an RO, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 5.

III.ii.1.B.3.b.  Procedures for Handling Miscellaneous Mail

The table below contains procedures for handling miscellaneous mail.
Mail Category
Procedure
Unidentifiable
Follow the procedures in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.B.5 for handling unidentifiable mail in the CM unidentifiable mail queue.
Undeliverable
Follow the instructions in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.B.6 when the USPS returns mail as undeliverable.

4.  Handling Outgoing Mail


Introduction

This topic contains instructions for handling outgoing mail, including

Change Date

May 30, 2018

III.ii.1.B.4.a.  Descriptions of Outgoing Mail

The table below describes the three categories of outgoing mail.
Mail Category
Description
Express
Mail the addressee must receive by the most expedient means.
Intraoffice
Mail that requires delivery to other operating elements within an RO.
Regular/
Routine
  • Letters and forms an RO sends to a person or place outside the RO that do not require expedited delivery.
  • Interoffice mail for VA medical facilities, other ROs, or VA Central Office.

III.ii.1.B.4.b.  Procedures for Handling Outgoing Mail

The table below contains procedures for handling outgoing mail.
Mail Category
Procedure
Express
  • Hand deliver the mail to the RO’s mailroom
  • complete an air bill from the express mail contract carrier
  • document the tracking number for the mail and keep it until the intended recipient has received the mail, and
  • follow any other procedures for sending express mail that the operating element responsible for mailroom services has established.
Notes:
  • ROs are responsible for maintaining a supply of air bills.
  • Express mail may be printed and mailed locally as needed.  CBCM is strongly encouraged in all possible instances.
Intraoffice
Clearly identify the intended recipient to include the appropriate mail routing symbol.
Regular/
Routine
  • For mail related to other off-site business lines not in CM portal (Fiduciary, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, Cemetery, the Veterans Health Administration, etc.), bundle and forward mail through USPS.
  • For other outgoing regular/routine mail (such as development letters or award letters to claimants, beneficiaries, and representatives) prepare packages using VBMS Package Manager for centralized printing and mailing as provided in the CBCM program whenever possible, unless the type of communication may not be centrally printed.
Note:  Other RO or PMC claim-related mail is no longer forwarded through USPS to the other ROs/PMCs. Upload the mail to the CM portal.
Reference:  For more information on receipt, separation, and routing of physical mail in the mailroom, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.E.2.

5.  Handling Unidentifiable Mail


Introduction

This topic contains information on unidentifiable mail, including

Change Date

March 27, 2019

III.ii.1.B.5.a.  Definition of Unidentifiable Mail

For purposes of mail control and accountability, unidentifiable mail is defined as any mail lacking identifying attributes or adequate information necessary to
  • conclusively identify an individual
  • associate the correspondence with an existing claims folder, or
  • create a new eFolder.
Important:  All search options found in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 3.A.1 must be exhausted before categorizing mail as unidentifiable.

III.ii.1.B.5.b.  Processing Unidentifiable Mail in CM

After reviewing all applicable systems to attempt to locate a Veteran, per M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 3.A.1.d, follow the steps in the table below to identify and document the unidentifiable mail in the CM portal.
Step
Action
1
  • If there is identifiable information available, proceed to Step 2.
  • If there is no identifiable information available
    • no indexing is required
    • enter a note on the mail packet stating that there is no identification information on the attached document to allow systems research, and
    • proceed to Step 6.
 2
Index the packet with any available identifiable information such as
  • Veteran’s first name
  • Veteran’s last name, or
  • zip code.
Note:  Adding or editing the FIRST NAME, LAST NAME, or FILE ID indexing fields will require the user to enter a value in all three fields.  Enter the number “0” in the missing field(s) if this situation occurs.
3
Click the NOTES button to open a window that will allow the user to place comments on a piece of mail.
Example:
Image of the NOTES button used to pull up the notes list.
The ADD RECORD button, designated by a “+” symbol, will open a popup that allows you to input the note text.
Example:
Button that allows users to enter a note to the record
4
 Enter a note on the mail packet stating
I certify that I took the following actions to attempt to locate a Veteran record for this packet:
  • BIRLS inquiry
  • Corporate Inquiry Person search
  • Participant Profile search
  • COVERS search
  • CAPRI search
  • Contact with claimant (if contact information was available)
  • Contact with the submitting Veteran Service Officer (if applicable)
  • Federal On-Line Query (FOLQ), accessed through the SSA INQUIRY command in Share.

Example:

Add record screen with the certification statement

Note:  If the user does not have access to an inquiry function identified above, another user with access should be consulted to attempt to identify the Veteran.
5
If the only available identifying information present is a return address
  • use the Letter Creator tool to create a Cannot Identify Veteranletter and send it to the listed address, and
  • add a note containing the following text:
Cover letter generated to obtain identifying information.  Letter sent to address retrieved from unidentifiable mail.  Request the letter’s originator submit a copy of the letter along with the identifying information.
Reference:  For more information about the Letter Creator tool, see theLetter Creator User Guide.
6
  • Mark the packet as unidentifiable mail by clicking UNIDENTIFIABLE in the ACTIONS menu, and
  • confirm the selection.

III.ii.1.B.5.c.  Supervisory Review of Unidentifiable Mail

Packets marked as unidentifiable mail will route to the UM FIRST AUTH queue for review by
  • an intake processing center (IPC) supervisor (at least GS-12 Assistant Coach or above) when mail is processed by an RO.  The IPC supervisor must be assigned to the supervisor role within the CM portal in order to access this queue, or
  • a Supervisory Program Support Assistant when mail is processed by the Records Management Center (RMC).
Important:  The term supervisor will be used to describe both the IPC supervisor and the RMC Supervisory Program Support Assistant, unless otherwise noted.
On a daily basis, the supervisor will review the unidentifiable mail.  This review will be conducted in accordance with the steps in the table below.
Step
Action
1
Review any unidentifiable mail packets to attempt to locate the Veteran record per M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 3.A.1.d.
2
Is the supervisor able to locate the Veteran record?
  • If yes, the supervisor will
    • index the packet with the Veteran’s
      • file number
      • first name, and
      • last name
    • deny the unidentifiable mail request by clicking the DENY button in the ACTIONS menu
Example:
DENY button as it appears in the Centralized Mail portal
  • enter the denial reason in the pop-up box
  • provide instruction to the user who identified the packet as unidentifiable on how the Veteran’s identity was located, and
  • click OK.
Example:
Pop-up window where DENY reason is entered
  • If no, proceed to Step 3.
3
If the supervisor is not able to identify a Veteran record, the supervisor will
  • ensure the packet is indexed with any available Veteran indexing information, such as the Veteran’s
    • first name,
    • last name,
    • SSN, or
    • zip code
  • place a note on the mail packet stating
I certify that I took the following actions to attempt to locate a Veteran record for this packet:
  • BIRLS inquiry
  • Corporate Inquiry Person search
  • Participant Profile search
  • COVERS search
  • CAPRI search
  • Contact with claimant (if contact information was available)
  • Contact with the submitting Veteran Service Officer (if applicable)
  • Federal On-Line Query (FOLQ), accessed through the SSA INQUIRY command in Share
  • approve the unidentifiable mail request by clicking the APPROVE button in the ACTIONS menu, and
  • at the APPROVE pop-up prompting stating I certify that this is unidentifiable mail, select OK.
Notes:
  • If the supervisor does not have access to an inquiry function identified above, another user with access should be consulted to attempt to identify the Veteran.
  • If the IPC team member, IPC supervisor, or RMC Supervisory Program Support Assistant cannot complete the required steps due to outstanding questions about how to process the mail packet, contact the Compensation Service Procedures Staff at VAVBAWAS/CO/212A for clarification and guidance.

III.ii.1.B.5.d.  RMO Review of Unidentifiable Mail

Packets approved as unidentifiable mail in the UM FIRST AUTH queue will route to the UM FINAL AUTH queue for review by the records management officer (RMO) or authorized designee.  The RMO will review all unidentifiable mail in the UM FINAL AUTH queue to ensure that both the user and IPC supervisor or RMC Supervisory Program Support Assistant have provided the note indicating the steps taken to identify the Veteran.
Important:  The term supervisor will be used to describe both the IPC supervisor and RMC Supervisory Program Support assistant, unless otherwise noted.
Refer to the table below for necessary RMO actions to complete the review of the unidentifiable mail.
If the required note describing attempts to locate the packet …
Then the RMO will …
was not placed by both the requesting user and the supervisor
  • place a note on the packet stating that the request for unidentifiable mail has been denied
  • deny the unidentifiable mail request by clicking the DENY button in the ACTIONS menu, and
  • enter the denial reason in the pop-up box.
Note:  After denial, the packet routes back to the supervisor UM FIRST AUTH queue and the denial reason is visible.
was placed by both the requesting user and supervisor
  • approve the unidentifiable mail request by clicking the APPROVE button in the ACTIONS menu, and
  • at the pop-up prompt stating I certify that this is unidentifiable mail, select OK.

III.ii.1.B.5.e.  Action Required Upon Receipt of Identifying Information for Unidentifiable Mail

Documents in packets marked as unidentifiable mail will remain viewable in the CM portal through the SEARCH feature for a period of one year after RMO approval.  At the expiration of the one-year period, the unidentifiable mail will be moved into an archive status, and the documents can no longer be viewed.
Follow the steps in the table below to search for unidentifiable mail, when information is received that may lead to identification of a packet previously processed as unidentifiable mail.
Step
Action
1
Access the SEARCH feature in the CM portal and search for the Veteran based on available information.
2
 If an unidentifiable mail packet is located
  • open the mail packet from the SEARCH feature by selecting PERFORM WORK from the ACTIONS menu
  • download the documents contained in the mail packet to the user’s desktop by selecting DOWNLOAD from the TASK menu
  • take proper action to control the documents in VBMS, and
  • manually upload the documents to VBMS from the user’s desktop.

III.ii.1.B.5.f.  Maintenance of Unidentifiable Mail Prior to Implementation of the CM Unidentifiable Mail Queues

The historical procedures for maintaining unidentifiable mail prior to the implementation of the CM unidentifiable mail queues involved
  • storing the unidentifiable mail in a paper file
  • closing the file at the end of the calendar year, and
  • disposing of the prior calendar year’s file in accordance with RCS VB-1, Part I, Item No. 03-132.200.
Note:  For unidentifiable mail received in the CM portal prior to the implementation of the CM unidentifiable mail queues, the electronic version was downloaded, printed, and maintained in paper format.

6.  Handling Returned Undeliverable Mail


Introduction

This topic contains information on issues concerning mail returned as undeliverable due to an improper address, including

Change Date

March 27, 2019

III.ii.1.B.6.a.Effect of Undeliverable Mail on a Pending Claim or Running Award

A claimant’s address does not constitute evidence.  Do not consider a claim to be abandoned solely because the claimant’s address is unknown.
If an award is stopped because a beneficiary’s address is unknown and checks are undeliverable, payments may be resumed effective the day following the date of last payment if
  • entitlement is otherwise established, and
  • the claimant furnishes a valid, correct address.
References:  For more information on
  • resuming payments when an award is stopped because the claimant’s address is unknown, see 38 CFR 3.158(c), and
  • homeless claimants, see 38 CFR 1.710.

III.ii.1.B.6.b.Categories of Undeliverable Mail

Undeliverable mail generally falls within one of two categories:
  • essential (has evidentiary value), or
  • nonessential (has no evidentiary value).
The table below provides common examples of both categories of undeliverable mail.
Essential Mail
Nonessential Mail
  • notices of proposed adverse action
  • decision notice
  • appeals decision notice
  • requests for evidence from
    • claimants
    • records centers
    • other agencies, and
    • private, third parties
  • questionnaires, including those VA uses to verify
    • dependency status
    • school attendance, and
    • employment status
  • mail involving matching programs, including the
    • FTI for upfront verification and income verification matches, and
    • Social Security Verification
  • mail affecting benefit entitlement, including
    • eligibility verification reports (EVRs), and
    • notices of routine review examinations
Letters VA releases
  • as notice of cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs)
  • for outreach purposes
  • in connection with special projects, such as the Economic Recovery Payment, and
  • to declare a beneficiary’s eligibility for
    • civil service preference
    • tax abatement, and
    • commissary privileges.
Note:  Most centrally generated correspondence, such as COLA notices or outreach letters, are mailed in green envelopes to make the identification of nonessential mail easier.
Note:  Designated intake personnel are responsible for screening and processing all undeliverable mail until adjudication action is required, such as rating or development.
Exception:  The IPC is expected to undertake telephone development to obtain a correct address and all steps outlined in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.B.6.cg, as instructed.

III.ii.1.B.6.c.Handling Undeliverable Nonessential Mail

Upon receipt of undeliverable nonessential mail, the IPC user checks to see if the envelope in which VA originally enclosed the mail has a yellow-colored, USPS sticker that shows a forwarding address.
  • If the sticker with the forwarding address is present
    • establish an EP 400 with a correspondence claim label in accordance with M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 3.D.2
    • during VBMS establishment, assign the claim to the non-rating lane
    • enter undeliverable mail as a contention
    • update the beneficiary’s record to reflect the new address using the guidance in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 3.C.1
    • if being screened electronically, download the mail from the portal for printing
    • generate a Return Mail cover letter using the Letter Creator tool or equivalent letter using Personal Computer Generated Letters (PCGL)
    • send the mail and cover letter to the new address
    • upload a copy of the cover letter to the eFolder, and
    • clear the EP 400.
  • If no forwarding address is present
    • upload the mail being screened electronically to VBMS, and
    • destroy the returned mail, if screening in paper.
Notes:
  • All returned mail envelopes received in the RO must be forwarded to the scanning vendor for upload into the Veteran’s claims folder.
  • When the original version of undeliverable nonessential email is available in the claims folder, download a clean copy of the letter to re-mail to the claimant instead of using the poorer quality CM scanned version.  Ensure the Return Mail letter is attached to the top with the proper updated address before returning the mail.
  • Whenever possible, where mail is being resent, create a package consisting of the mail and the Return Mail letter for centralized printing.
References:  For more information on

III.ii.1.B.6.d.Procedure for Obtaining a Correct Address for Undeliverable Essential Mail

Because telephone numbers are less likely to change during moves, whenever possible, use telephone development as the first action to obtain a corrected address for undeliverable mail and document the results in accordance with M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 1.B.1.e.

Follow the steps in the table below when telephone development fails to obtain the correct address for undeliverable essential mail.

Step
Action
1
Review the claims folder to ensure the address used on the undeliverable mail matches the current address of record.
2
Is a yellow-colored USPS sticker that shows a forwarding address on the envelope in which VA originally enclosed the mail?
  • If yes, go to Step 8.
  • If no, go to the next step.
3
Perform a Share inquiry to determine whether the corporate record, master record, or pending issue has a different or more current address than that shown on the returned mail.
Was a different address found?
  • If yes, go to Step 8.
  • If no, go to the next step.
4

Access Automated Medical Information Exchange (AMIE)/Compensation and Pension Record Interchange (CAPRI) to determine whether the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has a more current address or telephone number.

Was a different address found?

  • If yes, go to Step 8.
  • If no, go to the next step.
Note:  If the claims folder shows the last record of contact with the claimant predates the last date of medical treatment shown in AMIE/CAPRI, the address in VHA’s record may be more accurate.
5

Utilize web-based, address locator services, to include those for which VA pays a fee for access, to search for a correct mailing address. Place or upload a copy of the search results in the claims folder.

Was a different and current address found?

  • If yes, go to Step 8.
  • If no, go to the next step.
Note:  VA typically authorizes a limited number of employees per RO to access its fee-based address locator services.
6

Query Social Security Administration (SSA) records through Share to determine whether the addressee is actively in receipt of Social Security benefits.  When the Veteran is in receipt of active benefits, review the records to determine whether they contain a correct address.

Was the addressee actively in receipt of Social Security benefits, and was a different address found?

  • If yes, go to Step 8.
  • If no, go to the next step.
Note:  Do not utilize addresses from SSA records when the Veteran is not in receipt of Social Security benefits, as the address is likely not current.
7
8
Is the mail a legacy decision notice?
  • If yes, follow the procedures in M21-1, Part I, 5.E.2.b to resend the legacy appeal decision letter.
  • If no, go to Step 9.
9
Is a related EP still pending?
Note:  A related EP is an EP that is or was pending for the claim or other action associated with the original sending of the mail.
Important:
  • To avoid duplication of efforts, document all attempts to locate a correct address by
    • associating screen prints of third-party address locator service result with the claims folder, and
    • noting the systems used during a search.
  • Do NOT send any undeliverable FTI mail to the scanning vendor.  Follow safeguarding procedures outlined in M21-1, Part X, 9.B.
References:  For more information on

III.ii.1.B.6.e.Handling Undeliverable Essential Mail Upon Identification of a New Address– EP Is Still Pending

When a new address is obtained for undeliverable essential mail, using the guidance in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.B.6.d, and the related EP is still pending
  • the IPC
    • updates the address using the guidance in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 3.C.1
    • associates the undeliverable mail with the claims folder, and
    • manages evidence in VBMS (if applicable)
    • updates corresponding suspense dates or adds a custom tracked item (depending on the type of essential mail being handled) to ensure timely action by a claims processor, and
  • the assigned claims processor
    • closes related tracked items
    • generates new letter(s) with correct address
    • creates new tracked items(s)
    • resends the letter(s) to the claimant via centralized printing, and
    • updates corresponding suspense dates, when necessary.
Notes:
  • Do not upload FTI into VBMS.  FTI is stored in  the restricted FTI folder in the Legacy Content Manager only.
  • When a prior partial rating decision was completed but deferred items resulted in the EP being continued at authorization and the notification letter for the partial rating is returned, follow the procedures at M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.B.6.f to update the address and return the notification letter except that EP 400 will not be established or cleared nor will a tracked item be necessary.

References:  For more information on


III.ii.1.B.6.f.
Handling Undeliverable Essential Mail Upon Identification of a New Address –EP no Longer Pending

Follow the steps in the table below when
Letter Type
IPC Action(s)
Development or Rating Action(s)
claimant development
  • updates the address using the guidance in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 3.C.1
  • establishes an EP 930 with an appropriate claim label
  • associates the undeliverable mail with the claims folder, and
  • assigns the EP 930 to the lane where the original EP was closed.
development activity
  • generates new letter(s) with correct address
  • creates new tracked item(s), and
  • resends the letter(s) to the claimant via centralized printing.
third party development
  • establishes an EP 930 with an appropriate claim label
    • includes a note stating rating action required
    • sets the claim status to ready for decision
    • associates the undeliverable mail with the claims folder and
    • assigns the EP 930 to the lane where the original EP was closed.
rating activity conducts a review in accordance with M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.B.6.h.
Note:  Use the appropriate claim label for the EP 930
  • Non-Rating Control, or
  • Rating Control.
claimant or beneficiary notification
  • establishes an EP 400 with a correspondence claim label in accordance with M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 3.D.2
  • assigns the claim to the non-rating lane during VBMS establishment
  • enters undeliverable mail as a contention
  • updates the beneficiary’s record to reflect the new address using the guidance in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 3.C.1
  • downloads the mail from the portal for printing if being screened electronically
  • generates a Return Mailcover letter using the Letter Creator tool or equivalent letter in PCGL
  • sends the mail and cover letter to the new address
  • uploads a copy of the cover letter to the eFolder, or associates the letter with the legacy paper claims folder, and
  • clears the EP 400.
Important:
  • Whenever possible instead of locally printing and resending, prepare a package for centralized printing.
  • If a new address cannot be located follow the guidance in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.B.6.g.
N/A
representative notification
N/A
other essential mail (such as dependency verification, employment questionnaire, etc.)
Notes:
N/A
Important:  Do NOT send undeliverable FTI to the scanning vendor.  Follow safeguarding procedures outlined in M21-1, Part X, 9.B.
Notes:
  • When the original version of undeliverable essential mail is available in the claims folder, download a clean copy of the document to re-mail to the claimant instead of using the poorer quality CM scanned version.  When the remailed information does not include the claimant’s proper address, ensure the Return Mail letter is attached to the top with the proper updated address before returning the mail.  Send the mail through centralized printing.
  • Use the appropriate claim label for the EP 930 corresponding to the previously pending EP.  Claim labels include
    • Non-Rating Control
    • Rating Control
    • PMC – Non-Rating Control
    • PMC – Rating Control, or
    • PMC – DIC Rvw/Ref/Other
Exception:  EP 930 does not apply to returned mail issues for legacy appeals, which can be controlled by reestablishing an EP 170.
References:  For more information on using the Letter Creator tool, see theLetter Creator User Guide.

III.ii.1.B.6.g.
Final Attempt to Obtain an Updated Address forUndeliverable Claimant Notifications and Essential Mail

When an updated address cannot be obtained using the guidance in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.B.6.d for claimant or beneficiary notifications and other essential mail refer to the table below.
Step
Action
1
The IPC
  • establishes an EP 290 with the claim label disappearance of the Vet, and
  • assigns the claim to the non-rating lane.
2
The claims processor takes action as provided in the table below.
If direct deposit information …
Then the claims processor …
is available
sends a Bank Letter.
is not available
follows the guidance in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.B.6.i.
3
The claims processor takes further action as provided in the table below after the suspense period for the Bank Letter development has expired or an address is obtained.
If an address …
Then the claims processor …
is obtained
  • resends the claimant notification and/or other essential mail, and
  • clears EP 290.
is not identified within 30 days of the date the Bank Letter is sent
follows the guidance in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.B.6.i.
 
Notes:
Reference:  For more information on using the Letter Creator tool, see the Letter Creator User Guide.

III.ii.1.B.6.h.Rating Review of Undeliverable Third-Party Development Mail – No EP Pending

When a new address is available for returned mail related to the development of a completed claim or legacy appeal, the rating activity must determine if receipt of the evidence requested in the development could change the outcome of the decision.
Use the table below to determine the appropriate action based on the review.
If …
Then …
  • receipt of the requested evidence could change the previous decision, or
  • issues were denied due to lack of response to the development.
  • create a memo containing directed development, and
  • refer the claim to development activity.
receipt of the evidence could not affect the previous decision.
  • create a memo containing the rationale for why further development would not change the decision, and
  • instruct the authorization activity to clear the EP.

III.ii.1.B.6.i.  Final Actions When a Correct Address for Essential Mail Is Unobtainable

Take the actions described in the table below if a correct address for a claimant or beneficiary with undeliverable, essential mail is unobtainable.
If …
Then associate the returned mail and its original envelope with the claims folder, and …
no award is running
  • take no further action, and
  • clear EP 290.
  • no award is running, and
  • a claim is pending
  • deny the pending claim for the reasonWhereabouts Unknown
  • send notice to the claimant’s last known address
  • clear the pending EP 290 and EP(s) associated with the pending claim(s), and
  • consider the claim abandoned one-year following the date of request.
Important:  This procedure is applicable to handling an undeliverable due process notice in situations requiring character of discharge determinations.  A character of discharge determination should not be completed when the due process notice was not received by the Veteran.
References:  For more information on
an award is running
  • clear the pending EP 290 and EP(s) associated with the pending claim(s), if one is pending
  • send notice of proposed adverse action to discontinue benefits to the last address of record
  • establish EP 600 with a suspense date that is 65 days from the date of the notice of proposed adverse action, and
  • suspend benefits if the beneficiary does not respond within 60 days.
Important:
  • If the award is suspended due to undeliverable checks, contemporaneous notice is acceptable.
  • If no EP is running initially, then send notice of proposed adverse action under EP 290.
References:  For more information on
Notes:
  • For paper claims folders, file the returned mail in its original envelope on top of all other material in the claims folder.
  • For eFolders, ensure the mail and its original envelope are sent to the scanning vendor.
  • Do NOT send undeliverable FTI mail to the scanning vendor. Follow safeguarding procedures outlined in M21-1, Part X, 9.B.

III.ii.1.B.6.j. 800 Series Work Items Requiring Verification of a Correct Address

800 series work items are system messages generated to assist ROs with identifying cases requiring follow up action.
Certain 800 series work items identified as Work Item 810Notice of Benefit Payment Transaction (810WI) are commonly generated when a beneficiary’s address is not correct.
Reference:  For more information about 800 series work items, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart v, 10.

III.ii.1.B.6.k.Processing 800 Series Work Items Commonly Related to Lack of a Correct Address

Upon receipt of an 800 series work item, follow the steps in the table below to attempt to identify a correct address.
If the system has generated an 810WI with diary code …
Then …
602 Returned Funds in Personal Funds of Patients (PFOP) Payment Master Record Updated, a returned PFOP/Funds Due Incompetent Beneficiaries payment was applied against a running award
review the beneficiary’s record to determine if he/she has been discharged from the institution acting as fiduciary, and follow the steps in the table below.
If a finding of incompetency is …
Then refer …
of record
the message to the appropriate fiduciary hub.
not of record
Reference:  For a listing of fiduciary hub offices and their affiliated RO’s, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart v, 9.A.1.d.
603 Returned Payment Applied to Accts Receivable, a payment was returned and applied to a debt
  • review the award to determine the cause of the returned payment
  • determine if the returned payment was correctly applied to the debt, and
  • follow the guidance in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.B.6.d for returned essential mail if address is not correct.
Reference:  For more information on debt collection, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart vi, 2.C.
  • 604 Unapplied Balance returned to Appropriation, a payment is returned and processed against a discontinued award with no accounts receivable
  • 607 Miscellaneous Returned Payment, a one-time check, such as special payments, clothing allowance, or burial allowances are returned
  • 612 Account suspended-Undeliverable Payment, account suspended due to undeliverable checks, or that the proceeds of an undeliverable check exist.  This message is only issued when there are deductions for payment of an insurance premium
  • 626 Paid Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)-Verify Home Address, a check was returned, the address has not been changed, and the money is paid via electronic funds transfer, or
  • 634 Proceeds established in Participant Record, the proceeds of an undeliverable check exist
  • review the award to determine the cause of the returned payment
  • determine if proceeds are payable
  • follow the guidance in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.B.6.d for returned essential mail, and
  • release proceeds as applicable.
Notes:
  • Control development for a correct address with the existing EP, or if no EP is currently pending, an EP 290 with the Disappearance of Veteran(290 DSPV) claim label.
  • Contemporaneous notice is required when a beneficiary’s benefits are suspended or discontinued.
References:  For more information on

III.ii.1.B.6.l.Effect of Undeliverable Mail on the One-Year Time Limit for Submission of Evidence

Do not extend the one-year time limit for submission of evidence in support of a claim if
  • VA sent the request for evidence to the claimant’s last known address
  • the request was returned as undeliverable, and
  • attempts to obtain a correct address were unsuccessful.
Reference:  For more information on the one-year time limit, see 38 CFR 3.158(a).

III.ii.1.B.6.m.Claimants Who Are Unable or Unwilling to Furnish a Correct Address

If a claimant or beneficiary is unable or unwilling to furnish a correct mailing address but wishes to continue pursuing a claim and/or receiving benefits, send his/her correspondence and/or benefit checks to the
  • Agent Cashier of the office or center having jurisdiction over the claims folder, or
  • Agent Cashier of any VA facility deemed appropriate.
Reference:  For more information on the delivery of correspondence or benefit checks to homeless claimants, see 38 CFR 1.710(d).

III.ii.1.B.6.n.Checks or Correspondence Not Collected from Agent Cashiers Within 30 Days

The table below describes the handling of checks and correspondence that beneficiaries and/or claimants fail to collect from Agent Cashiers within 30 days.
If a …
Then the …
beneficiary fails to collect his/her benefit check from an Agent Cashier within 30 days
Agent Cashier returns the check to the Department of the Treasury.
Result:  This action suspends the beneficiary’s award.
claimant fails to collect correspondence from an Agent Cashier within 30 days
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