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M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, Chapter 1, Section C – Initial Screening Policies

Overview


In This Section

This section contains the following topics:
Topic
Topic Name
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8

1.  Recording the Date of Receipt of Incoming Documents


Introduction

This topic contains policies and procedures for recording the date of receipt on documents the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) receives, including

Change Date

February 19, 2019

III.ii.1.C.1.a.  Requirement to Stamp the Date of Receipt on All Incoming Documents

Each document submitted to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) must receive a stamp with the date of receipt.
The table below outlines requirements regarding the type of date stamps used by facilities and locations where VA has a presence.
If at a(n) …
Then the document requires a(n) …
regional office (RO)
electronic date stamp containing black ink.
out-based facility
electronic or manual date stamp containing red ink and identifying the
  • RO name
  • RO number
  • date received, and
  • out-based office where the mail was received.
Note:   An out-based facility must obtain and use an electronic or manual date stamp.  In an interim period, while the out-based facility is obtaining an electronic or manual date stamp, annotate the document with
  • date of receipt
  • signature of employee receiving the document
  • RO name
  • RO number
  • current date (if different than date of receipt), and
  • time.
Reference:  For more information on handling procedures specific to pre-discharge claims, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart i, 2.B.1.c.
site conducting outreach activities
annotate the document with
  • date of receipt, recorded either by annotation or manual date stamp
  • signature of employee receiving the document
  • RO name
  • RO number
  • current date (if different than date of receipt), and
  • time.
Note:  These procedures apply when it is not possible to record date of receipt via electronic submission through an approved VA system or the use of an electronic date stamp.
centralized mail (CM) scanning vendor
date applied to the scanned/converted image by the vendor.
Exception:  When special controlled correspondence is received through an RO congressional e-mail box, utilize the sent/received date on the e-mail as the date of receipt.  Directly upload the mail to the claims folder and do not forward for CM processing or scanning.
Note:  The Digits-to-Digits (D2D) electronic claims service is a data delivery service built to enable a Veteran’s representative to electronically submit claims and evidence.  The implementation agreement with the Veterans service organizations (VSOs) provides that if an electronic claim that met VA-specified D2D standards was not successfully submitted or did not result in a confirmation ID it will not be considered received by VA for the purpose of determining the effective date of the claim.  A new claim must be successfully re-submitted through D2D.  The date of claim will be the date of receipt of the successfully re-submitted claim.
References:  For more information on

III.ii.1.C.1.b.  Handling Documents Processed Without a Date Stamp

Use the guidance in the table below when attempting to determine the date the VA received a document processed without a date stamp.
If receipt of the document by VA is determined to be …
Then …
the current date
stamp the document with an official date stamp.
prior to the current date
hand-write the date of receipt on the document.
unknown
  • hand-write the best estimate for the date of receipt, and
  • identify it as an estimate on the document.
Important:
  • All hand-written annotations must include the
    • RO number
    • RO name
    • employee’s signature
    • current date, and
    • current time.
  • The “received date” on a fax is an acceptable date stamp for documents faxed and directly indexed into the electronic claims folder (eFolder). It isnot necessary to print out such documents, stamp with the date of receipt, and upload back into the eFolder.
  • When mail is received via e-mail through an authorized mailbox, accept the “sent” date electronically recorded on the e-mail as an acceptable date stamp and upload the e-mail to the claims folder.  Do not, however, accept claims or claims-related material via unsolicited e-mails submitted to an individual employee mailbox or other unauthorized mailboxes.  When an attempt is made by a claimant or an authorized representative to submit claims or claims-related material via e-mail to an unauthorized mailbox, a courtesy reply should be provided to direct the submission via CM submission.
  • When the procedures in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.C.1.a concerning documenting date of receipt are not followed but the date of receipt is otherwise documented and there is no indication of fraud or other apparent disparity, accept the documented date of receipt and/or utilize the estimated date of acceptance procedures referenced above.
Note:  If the RO experiences unusual delays in the delivery of incoming documents (from the mailroom, intake site, other ROs, etc.), the Veterans Service Center Manger or Pension Management Center Manager may instruct employees to annotate the date the RO received the documents.

III.ii.1.C.1.c. Placement of the Date Stamp on Incoming Documents

Place the date stamp on the front of incoming documents in the bottom, right corner whenever possible, but do not obscure data (e.g. images, hand-written or typed text, etc.).
Date stamp on the first page of all
  • VA forms
  • claimant correspondence, and
  • cover sheets (from designated representatives (powers of attorney (POAs), attorneys, etc.)
Date stamp the first and last page of all medical evidence.
Note:  Do not separate batches of incoming mail.  Keep batches together with a staple, rubber band, or binder clip and separately date stamp the evidence items as described above.

III.ii.1.C.1.d.  Date of Receipt for Mail Processed in the CM Portal

Date of receipt for mail routed through the CM portal is determined by the earliestofficial date
  • stamped by the RO upon receipt and prior to forwarding to the scanning vendor
  • applied to the converted image by the scanning vendor for mail it received directly, or
  • found on documents such as VA Form 27-0820, Report of General Information, or facsimiles.
Notes:
  • The date of receipt used by the scanning contractor and displayed in the portal, generally reflects the earliest date of receipt.
  • If an earlier date of receipt is discovered, edit the document properties in the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) claims folder.
Reference:  For more information on editing document properties in VBMS, see the VBMS Job Aid – Editing Document Properties.

III.ii.1.C.1.e.  Special Handling Procedures for CM Sent to Newnan Scanning Facility 

After the Newnan scanning facility ceased its operations, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) instructed the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to forward mail addressed to the Newnan, Georgia post office (P.O.) box to the Janesville, Wisconsin P.O. box where it would be properly date stamped and scanned.
Due to a critical failure with the USPS commercial forwarding system, USPS did not promptly forward VBA mail from the Newnan facility to the Janesville facility.  This incident impacted mail sent to the Newnan address between January 25 and February 26, 2016.
As a result of this delay, special procedures are required to assign an appropriate date stamp to this mail to avoid an adverse impact to affected claimants.
Follow the steps in the table below for identification and handling of affected mail.

Step

Action

1

Review the mail packet to determine whether all of the following criteria apply:
  • the envelope is addressed to the Newnan scanning facility
  • a Newnan date stamp is not affixed to the mail packet, and
  • a Janesville date stamp is affixed to the mail packet.
If all of the criteria are
  • met, proceed to Step 2.
  • not met, utilize the date stamp indicated on the mail packet.
Important:  These procedures do not apply to documents
  • addressed to the Janesville facility
  • faxed to the Newnan facility, or
  • submitted electronically via the Stakeholder Enterprise Portal (SEP) or eBenefits.
2
For affected mail, utilize the criteria in the table below to determine the date of claim.
If a postmark date …
Then …
is recorded on the mail
use the postmark date as date of receipt.
is not recorded on the mail and there is a date the application was signed
use the date the application was signed, if after January 25, 2016.
is not recorded on the mail and
  • there is no date the application was signed, or
  • the application was signed on or before January 25, 2016, and/or
  • there is no other identifying date
use January 25, 2016.

III.ii.1.C.1.f.  Handling Original Documents

Claimants occasionally submit original versions of the following documents in support of their claims:
  • court records and papers, and
  • marriage, birth, death, and discharge certificates.
VBA no longer requires return of these documents to the claimant.
Note:  Original copies of legal documents are not routinely required during claims processing.  There is no mechanism in place to retrieve original documents once shipped to the scanning vendor.

2.  Signatures


Introduction

This topic contains guidance regarding acceptable types of signatures, including

Change Date

February 19, 2019

III.ii.1.C.2.a.  Signature by X Mark or Thumbprint

Accept signatures by X mark or thumbprint only if any one of the following individuals (or group of individuals) witness the mark or thumbprint:
  • two persons who give their addresses
  • a VA employee
  • a VSO representative
  • an attorney
  • an accredited agent
  • a notary public, or
  • a person having the authority to administer oaths for general purposes.
References:  For more information on

III.ii.1.C.2.b.  Signature by Pencil

Accept signatures (or an X mark as a signature) that a claimant makes by pencil.

III.ii.1.C.2.c.  Low Quality Scanned Signatures

In the event a low quality scanned document is received, claims processors will interpret poor quality signatures as belonging to the proper claimant.
Note:  Development for a duplicate signature is not appropriate when based solely upon the scanning quality of the signature received on a document.

III.ii.1.C.2.d. Faxed and Photocopied Signatures 

Faxed or photocopied versions of original wet signatures are acceptable for VA purposes.

III.ii.1.C.2.e.  Signatures by VA Employees

When authority exists for a VA employee to complete forms on behalf of a claimant, or when the claims process otherwise requires a signature by a VA employee acting in his or her official capacity, the employee may substitute a typed name, station number, and position title for a wet or digital signature.

III.ii.1.C.2.f. Definition: Digital or Electronic Signature

digital signature is an encrypted digital code appended to an electronic document to verify that the document was created by a known source and has not been altered.
An electronic signature is a signature, or its equivalent, that is affixed to an electronic document.
Notes:  For VA purposes
  • any signature captured by an electronic signature pad or similar device and affixed to an electronic document is an electronic signature, but
  • an electronic signature is not an electronic transmission of a signature that originated as a wet signature such as a
    • scanned copy of a signature, or
    • faxed copy of a signature.

III.ii.1.C.2.g.  Acceptable Electronic or Digital Signatures

Accept any electronic or digital signature or other image of a signature on a claim, decision review request, or legacy appeal for benefits, or associated form, unless there are clear indications of fraud.
Example:  A claim is signed on February 1, 2017, with the claimant’s electronic signature.  Subsequent correspondence indicates that the claimant passed away December 22, 2016.  As the claimant was deceased at the time the claim was signed, there is clear indication of fraud.  The signature must not be accepted.
References:  For more information on

III.ii.1.C.2.h.  Procedures for Acceptance of Signatures

The policy and associated procedures for acceptance of digital and electronic signatures, as expressed in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.C.2.g, are effective June 20, 2017, and apply to
  • any claim pending on June 20, 2017
  • any previously received claims-related materials pending and not already rejected for an unacceptable signature in compliance with prior policies and procedures
  • requests for review of previously rejected claims when the request for review is received within one year of the date of receipt of the rejected claim, and
  • any claims and claims-related materials received on or after June 20, 2017.

III.ii.1.C.2.i. Procedures for Review of Previously Rejected Signatures 

Follow the procedures below when a signature on a claim or legacy appeal wasproperly rejected based on policies and procedures in place at the time of rejection and a request for review of the prior claim is received.

  • If the request for review is received within one year of the date of receipt of the rejected claim, consider the request for review as sufficient evidence to complete the prior incomplete claim.  Review the prior claim as if it was properly signed at the time and
    • establish the proper end product (EP) control based on the type of claim with a date of claim corresponding with the date of receipt of the request for review, and
    • award any associated benefits based on the date of receipt of the previously-rejected claim.
  • If the request was not received within one year of the date of receipt of the rejected claim, no revision or reconsideration of prior actions to reject a signature should be made.  A complete, signed claim on a prescribed claim form must be submitted.

Under prior policies and procedures, non-claim forms, such as certification statements that require claimant signatures, may also have been rejected due to improper electronic signatures.  Subsequent development may have occurred to request a properly signed form.  When a signature on claims-related material wasproperly rejected and the associated claim remains pending or a subsequent legacy appeal is received, consider the claims-related material to have an acceptable signature and proceed with consideration of the claims-related material in connection with the pending claim or legacy appeal.


III.ii.1.C.2.j. Example of Handling a Previously Rejected Signature on a Claim

Situation:  A Veteran submits a claim on February 21, 2017, that includes an electronic signature.  On March 12, 2017, the claim was properly rejected based on an unacceptable electronic signature under the guidance previously in place.  The claimant was properly notified of the incomplete application and advised to submit a properly signed claim within one year to preserve the effective date of the claim.  On June 21, 2017, the Veteran’s representative submitted a statement asking for review of the rejected claim based on the revised policy.  A newly-signed claim form has not been submitted.
Result:  The claim received on February 21, 2017, was properly rejected based on policies and procedures at the time of the rejection.  However, as the request for review of the prior claim was received within one year of the date of receipt of the prior application (considered incomplete at the time) and is sufficient evidence to now complete the claim, the claim may be established with a date of claim of June 21, 2017, the date of receipt of the request for review.  Any assignment of effective date for subsequently granted benefits must be established based on the date of receipt of the February 21, 2017, claim.

III.ii.1.C.2.k. Example of Handling a Previously Rejected Signature on Claim-related Material

Situation:  A Veteran submits VA Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits, on January 15, 2017, and the claim is accepted.   It includes a claim for entitlement to individual unemployability (IU).  VA Form 21-8940, Veteran’s Application for Increase Compensation Based on Unemployability, is subsequently submitted on February 22, 2017, but includes an electronic signature.  Subsequent development was completed on March 5, 2017, advising the Veteran that the VA Form 21-8940could not be accepted because it included an improper electronic signature.  The claim received on January 15, 2017, remains pending.  No VA Form 21-8940 has yet been received with a revised signature from the Veteran.
Result:  As the claim of January 15, 2017, remains pending, accept the VA Form 21-8940 with the electronic signature and give full consideration to it as the claim for IU is developed and decided.

 

 3.  Procedures for Alternate Signers


Introduction


Change Date

June 15, 2018

III.ii.1.C.3.a.  Individuals Authorized to Sign on Behalf of a Claimant

Public Law (PL) 112-154, Section 502, amended 38 U.S.C. 5101 to authorize VA to accept an alternate signature on behalf of claimants or beneficiaries who
  • are under age 18
  • lack the mental capacity to provide substantially accurate information needed to complete a form or to certify that the statements made on a form are true and complete, or
  • are physically unable to sign a form.
References:  For more information on

III.ii.1.C.3.b.  Requirements for an Alternate Signer

38 U.S.C. 5101 requires an alternate signer be at least one of the following:
  • a court-appointed representative
  • an individual responsible for the care of the claimant or beneficiary, including a spouse or other relative
  • an attorney-in-fact or agent authorized to act on behalf of the claimant or beneficiary under a durable POA, or
  • a manager or principal officer acting on behalf of an institution caring for the claimant or beneficiary.
Note:  When the evidence of record includes documentation reflecting that a court or VA finding has been made concerning the claimant’s competency status, accept a signature of any of the following on behalf of a claimant without following the procedures for alternate signers:
  • a court appointed guardian
  • a court appointed fiduciary (with an associated finding of incompetency), or
  • a VA appointed fiduciary.
Reference:  For more information reviewing documents pertaining to a claimant’s competency status, see

III.ii.1.C.3.c.  Handling a Form or Application With an Alternate Signature

When an alternate signer certifies or represents that he or she is an appropriate signer under the criteria set forth in 38 U.S.C. 5101, VA will generally accept the alternate signature in the absence of discrepant information.
Follow the steps in the table below upon
  • receipt of one of the forms listed under “Notice to Veteran/Claimant of VA Forms That May Accompany An Alternate Signer Certification Form” onVA Form 21-0972, Alternate Signer Certification, and
  • discovery of any discrepant information.
If the document is a(n) … Then …
application
Reference:  For more information on handling VA Form 21-526EZ that includes the alternate signer certification and acknowledgment paragraph, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.C.3.d.
form other than an application
Example:  A VA Form 21-0781, Statement in Support of Claim for Service Connection for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), received in conjunction with a pending claim for increase.
form other than those listed on theVA Form 21-0972
develop for the claimant’s signature, as needed, according to procedures specific to the particular form submitted.
Notes:
  • If the alternate signer certification is received, either on VA Form 21-0972or VA Form 21-526EZ, and there is no reason to question the alternate signer, other forms signed by the alternate signer are acceptable when submitted simultaneously with or subsequent to the certification assuming that all other requirements found in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.C.3.a and b are satisfied.
  • Since the alternate signer is acting on behalf of a claimant who otherwise cannot act on his or her own behalf, the alternate signer’s receipt of the notice required under 38 U.S.C. 5103 and received via prescribed form is sufficient.  Additional duplicate notice need not be provided to the claimant.
References:  For more information on

III.ii.1.C.3.d.  Handling VA Form 21-526EZ With an Alternate Signature

VA Form 21-526EZ, includes an alternate signer certification and acknowledgment paragraph.
Send the Incomplete Application letter from the Letter Creator tool or equivalent letter from PCGL with a VA Form 21-0972 to the claimant and/or alternate signer for clarification, and include the sample language in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.C.3.e, when
  • a completed VA Form 21-526EZ is received that does not contain the required certification language, and
  • the evidence or information before VA is unclear as to whether an alternate signer is appropriate under PL 112-154 and 38 U.S.C. 5101.
Reference:  For more information on the Letter Creator tool, see the Letter Creator User Guide.

III.ii.1.C.3.e.  Sample Development Language for Alternate Signer

When sending a letter to develop to the alternate signer, claimant, and/or beneficiary, use the sample language below if
  • the signature on the form clearly belongs to someone other than the claimant or beneficiary, and
  • there is not a completed VA Form 21-526EZ that includes the required alternate signer certification, and
  • there is
    • no evidence or information of record that would allow VA to ascertain the basis for the alternate signer designation, or
    • discrepant information that is questionable or conflicting in establishing the authority of the alternate signer of the form.
Please complete and return the enclosed VA Form 21-0972, Alternate Signer Certification, to advise us of the basis for signing the form on behalf of the claimant or beneficiary.
VA allows for alternate signers to sign a form or application on behalf of claimants and beneficiaries who:
  • have not attained the age of 18 years,
  • lack the mental capacity to provide substantially accurate information needed to complete a form, or to certify that the statements made on a form are true and complete, or
  • are physically unable to sign forms.
The public law defines an alternate signer as falling into at least one of the following categories:
  • individual responsible for the care of the claimant or beneficiary, including a spouse or other relative, or
  • court-appointed representative, or
  • attorney-in-fact or agent authorized to act on behalf of the claimant under a durable power of attorney, or
  • a manager or principal officer acting on behalf of an institution which is responsible for the care of the claimant.

4.  Routing Mail for Claims From Foreign Residents


Introduction

This topic contains policies regarding routing mail for claims from foreign residents, including

Change Date

February 19, 2019

III.ii.1.C.4.a.  Determining Jurisdiction Over Mail From Residents of a Foreign Country

When mail is received for disability compensation claims and related legacy appeals for any foreign location, the mail will be processed in the centralized Intake Processing Center (IPC) queue.
See the table below when determining jurisdiction for mail related to pension or survivor claims received from residents of foreign countries.
If the mail received is for …
And the claimant resides in …
Then refer mail to the …
pension or survivor claims or related legacy appeal(s)
  • Mexico
  • Central and South America, or
  • the Caribbean
St. Paul Pension Management Center (PMC).
pension or survivor claims or related legacy appeal(s)
a foreign country other than
  • Mexico
  • Central and South America, or
  • the Caribbean
Philadelphia PMC.
Exception:  For mail related to claims received from dependents residing in a foreign country, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.C.4.b.
Notes:
  • American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands (Rota, Saipan, and Tinian) are U.S. territories; they are not foreign countries.
  • Activate the Foreign corporate flash upon receipt of a claim or legacy appeal that
    • is subject to National Work Queue (NWQ) routing, and
    • was submitted by an individual with a foreign address.
References:  For more information on

III.ii.1.C.4.b.  Claims From Dependents Residing in a Foreign Country

Jurisdiction over claims from dependents residing in a foreign country is based on the primary beneficiary’s place of residence and entitlement and not on the dependent’s place of residence.
Example:  A Veteran living in Salt Lake City, Utah, files a claim for disability compensation.  After the Salt Lake City RO awards entitlement based on a 50-percent disability evaluation, the Veteran’s dependent, who lives in Seoul, Korea, files a claim for an apportioned share of the Veteran’s benefits.
Result:  Because the Veteran resides within the jurisdiction of the Salt Lake City RO, this RO – not the Pittsburgh RO – is responsible for processing the dependent’s claim.

 

5.  Handling Claims for Ancillary Benefits


Change Date

July 10, 2015

III.ii.1.C.5.a.  Handling Claims for Ancillary Benefits

Upon receipt of an application form for the ancillary benefits listed below, follow normal procedures in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.A for reviewing mail.
Ancillary benefit application forms include
Note:  An EP 290 is normally established for ancillary benefits unless received as part of an original claim for other benefits, in which case an EP 110 or 010 series would be used.
References:  For more information on

 

6.  Screening and Handling Restricted-Access Mail From Employees and Their Relatives


Introduction

This topic contains information on screening and handling restricted-access mail from employees and their relatives, including

Change Date

February 19, 2019

III.ii.1.C.6.a.  Identifying Restricted- Access Mail

Mail from the following claimants requires restricted-access handling:
  • VA employees and contractors
  • family members of VA employees and contractors
  • VSO employees
  • VA interns
  • participants in VA work-study programs, and
  • high-ranking government officials.
Reference:  For more information about identifying individuals whose claims require restricted-access handling, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 4.A.3 and 4.

III.ii.1.C.6.b. Who Has Jurisdiction Over Restricted-Access Mail

With few exceptions, mail related to claims filed by employees and their relatives require restricted-access handling by the St. Paul Restricted Access Claims Center (RACC) for compensation claims, and by the St. Paul PMC RACC for pension and survivor claims.
Reference:  For additional information on claims handled by RACCs, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 4.A.4.

III.ii.1.C.6.c.  NWQ Routing of Claims to RACCs 

Follow the instructions in the NWQ Playbook, under the heading Restricted Access Claims Center (RACC) Claims Routing, upon receipt of a claim or legacy appeal that
  • falls under the jurisdiction of a RACC, and
  • is subject to NWQ routing.

III.ii.1.C.6.d.  Use of the RACC Cover Sheet for Proper Mail Routing

Mail routing within the CM portals is normally based upon the zip code from which correspondence originated.
RACC employees attach cover sheets to all outgoing correspondence.  Additionally, Public Contact teams at all ROs provide these cover sheets to employee/family member claimants upon request.  The cover sheets override zip codes and automatically route the incoming mail to the appropriate RACC CM queue.
In cases where non-RACC ROs receive RACC mail, they will reassign the mail within their CM queues to the appropriate RACC CM queue per instructions found in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.E.5.c, Step 2.
References:  For additional information on

III.ii.1.C.6.e.  RACC Mail Handling Responsibilities

When a RACC receives mail from an employee or an employee’s relative as listed in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 4.A.4.a from another RO, it must
  • review the claims folder to determine whether a claim is pending, and (if necessary)
  • continue any claims processing activities initiated by the other RO.

 

7.  Measuring Timeliness of a Reduction or Discontinuation of Benefits


Introduction

This topic contains instructions for measuring timeliness of a reduction or discontinuation of benefits, including

Change Date

December 13, 2018

III.ii.1.C.7.aEstablishing Timeliness Controls on PotentialUnder/Overpayments

When information is received that suggests a potential under/overpayment may exist, add the Potential Under/Overpayment special issue to allow for monitoring of timeliness in completing action on potential under/overpayments.
Exception:  The use of the Potential Under/Overpayment special issue is not  required while processing pension and survivor claims.

III.ii.1.C.7.b. When to Establish Timeliness Controls on Potential Overpayments 

Add the Potential Under/Overpayment special issue when information is received from one of the following sources indicating potential overpayment:
  • the beneficiary or a third party
  • a message generated as a result of a matching program as described inM21-1, Part X, or
  • an 800 series work item.
Examples of mail that could result in a reduction or discontinuation of benefits include
  • mail related to one of the matching programs discussed in M21-1, Part X, or
  • a notice of
    • drill pay
    • return to active duty
    • fugitive felon
    • death
    • incarceration
    • a change in the status of a beneficiary’s dependent(s), or
    • hospitalization that requires adjustment of a beneficiary’s award under
References:  For more information on

III.ii.1.C.7.c. When to Establish Timeliness Controls on Potential Underpayments  

The source of the information prompting use of the Potential Under/Overpayment special issue must be
  • a message generated as a result of a matching program as described inM21-1, Part X, or
  • an 800 series work item.
Example:  An Audit Error Worksheet (AEW) for entitlement to Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay or Combat Related Special Compensation.
References:  For more information on

8.  Handling Outdated Forms


Introduction

This topic contains information about outdated versions of forms, including

Change Date

December 13, 2018

III.ii.1.C.8.a. Accepting  Outdated Versions of a VA Form

In compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act and associated policies and procedures of the Office of Management and Budget, outdated versions of forms can only be accepted in limited circumstances as these are no longer the official form prescribed by the Secretary of VA.  For claims processing purposes, generally accept only the current version of a form, including a claim form.
Exceptions:  Outdated versions of forms may only be accepted in the circumstances described below:
  • when generated through a VA electronic claims submission system, such as eBenefits, SEP, D2D, or other VA system that includes form-generation capacity.  Claim labels and document properties in VBMS will clearly denote the source of the submission
  • as an interim procedure pending appropriate systems updates when submitted by an authorized VSO representative whether submitted electronically or via paper
  • when VA forms are not submitted by a VSO representative, the outdated form may be accepted for 12 months after a revision of a form to allow for depletion of existing stock of forms and/or systems updates, or
  • in certain circumstances, as described in M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 1.D.1.b, an outdated version of VA Form 21-4142Authorization to Disclose Information to the Department of Veterans Affairs, may be accepted and utilized to request private medical evidence.
Notes:
  • When accepting an outdated version of a form based on the exceptions identified above, develop for any information required to process the claim that is requested on the current version of the form but not requested on the outdated version.  When the information collected on the current version is not required to process the claim, then additional development is not necessary unless indicated in other policies or procedures.
  • Part of the requirement for a substantially complete claim is that it be submitted on a form prescribed by the Secretary.  When a claim is submitted on an outdated version of a claim form and none of the above-listed exceptions applies or the claim is otherwise incomplete, handle the claim as an incomplete claim as directed at M21-1, Part I, 1.B.1.g.
References:  For more information on

III.ii.1.C.8.b.  Determining the Date a Form Becomes Outdated
In most cases, as described in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.C.8.a, a prior version of a form becomes outdated one year after the date that the form is revised.  Determine the date a version of a form was released or revised by referring to the
  • date of the form as printed on the form (normally near the form number) for any version of a form, or
  • REVISION DATE field on the VA Forms Website or the Publications Index from the Compensation Service Intranet Home Page for the current version of a form.  The ISSUE DATE field on these websites is not relevant to determining the date on which a form was released or became outdated.
Note:  The current version of the form normally provides the prior version of the form that has been superseded.  This information is customarily located near the form number and revision date at the bottom of the form.

III.ii.1.C.8.c.  Example of Outdated Form Determination
As noted in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.C.8.b, information on the current version of the form can be used to determine whether a prior version is outdated.
Example:  A Veteran submitted VA Form 21-526EZ on August 22, 2018, using the February 2016 version of the form.  As of August 22, 2018, the current version of VA Form 21-526EZ is dated March 2018 as indicated by the revision date on the form and the REVISION DATE field on the forms websites.  The current version of VA Form 21-526EZ also shows that the February 2016 version was the prior version.
Image of the bottom of a form showing the revision date and prior version information.
A prior version of a form may be accepted for one year after the form has been revised as directed at M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.C.8.a.  Thus, the February 2016 version of VA Form 21-526EZ is acceptable until March 2019, one year after the current revision date.  The claim is valid and development should begin.

III.ii.1.C.8.d.  Rejecting an Outdated Version of a VA Form

When an outdated form must be rejected, return the form to the Veteran and POA, if necessary, using the procedures below.
  • For outdated claims forms
    • when a claim has not yet been established, follow modified incomplete application procedures directed at M21-1, Part I, 1.B.1.g, but modify Step 5 to prepare the Incomplete Application letter.  Edit the final sentence of the opening paragraph of the Incomplete Application letter to read We cannot process your claim until it is resubmitted on the proper current version of the claim form, or
    • when a claim has been incorrectly established based on an outdated claim form, follow the procedures at M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 2.B.5.
  • For outdated non-claim forms, use the Outdated Form—Non-claim letter in theLetter Creator tool or equivalent letter in PCGL.  Allow the claimant 30 days to submit the proper version of the form.
Reference:  For more information on using the Letter Creator tool, see the Letter Creator User Guide.
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