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M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, Chapter 5, Section H – Transfer of Paper Claims Folders Subject to Review by the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC)

Overview


In This Section

This section contains the following topics:
Topic
Topic Name
1
2
3

1.  Transferring  Paper Claims Folders During the Special-Handling Period


Introduction

  This topic contains information about transferring paper claims folders which are subject to review by CAVC, including


Change Date

July 14, 2015

III.ii.5.H.1.a.  Special-Handling Period Following BVA Decisions

 
The 120-day period following a Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) decision is considered a special-handling period for paper claims folders which are subject to review by the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC).
To avoid sanctions against the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and its employees, the regional office (RO) must follow the prescribed procedures when processing paper claims folders during this period.
Exception:  The special-handling period only applies to paper claims folders that are excluded from scanning.
Reference:  For more information on the special-handling of claims folders, seeM21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 4.I.1.

III.ii.5.H.1.b.  
Shipping Policy During the Special-Handling Period

  During the 120-day period following a BVA decision, ship paper claims folders that are subject to review by CAVC via

  • overnight mail, or
  • express mail.

Reference:  For more information on the special handling of claims folders after BVA decisions, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 4.I.1.


III.ii.5.H.1.c.
Permanent Transfers During the Special-Handling Period

If a paper claims folder requires a permanent transfer to another RO during the 120-day special-handling period following a BVA decision, make sure the temporary file accompanies the paper claims folders that are being permanently transferred to another RO.
The receiving RO must
  • store the paper claims folders in its BVA secured area, and
  • establish a local control date to return the paper claims folder to regular storage on the date indicated by BVA.

Reference:  For instructions on maintaining special handling claims folders at the RO, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 4.I.1.


III.ii.5.H.1.d.
Temporary Transfers During the Special-Handling Period

During the special-handling period, do not temporarily transfer paper claims folders to any entity other than the following:

  • another RO
  • BVA
  • the Office of General Counsel (OGC)
  • Veterans Benefits Administration’s (VBA’s)
    • Compensation Service
    • Pension and Fiduciary Service
    • Education Service, or
    • Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Service, or
  • VA medical centers (VAMCs).

Important:  Paper claims folders should not be temporarily transferred to a VAMCunless the RO can ensure the VAMC

  • is familiar with the restrictive handling requirements during the special-handling period
  • can maintain security of the paper claims folders and not tamper with material filed in the paper claims folder, and
  • agrees to expeditiously return the paper claims folder to the RO if the CAVC Litigation Group requests it.

Notes:

  • When a temporary transfer is necessary, send the temporary file instead of the paper claims folder, if possible.
  • Paper claims folders may be temporarily transferred to BVA based on a telephone request from the Office of the
    • Chairman, or
    • Director of the Administrative Support Staff.

Reference:  For more information about the special-handling procedures for paper claims folders eligible for CAVC appeal review, see M23-1, Part I, Chapter 13.


III.ii.5.H.1.e.
Coordination of Temporary Transfers to CO

Use the table below to coordinate a temporary transfer of paper claims folders for VA Central Office (CO) review.
Important:  The RO must notify the receiving office prior to transferring the paper claims folders.
If transferring paper claims folders to the …
Then send an email to …
Policy Staff (211B)
Education Service Program Administration Staff
Director of VR&E

III.ii.5.H.1.f.
Temporary Transfers Between ROs

When paper claims folders are temporarily transferred between ROs, the receiving RO must store the paper claims folders in its BVA secured area and should onlystore the paper claims folder in the main file bank when the special-handling period has expired.
If the claims folders are returned to the station of origination during the special-handling period, the Veterans Service Center Manager (VSCM), Pension Management Center Manager (PMCM) or designee must certify, using the BVA label in the center of the paper claims folders, that no material subject to CAVC review was
  • added to, or
  • deleted from the record.

Reference:  For more information on BVA label inserts for paper claims folders, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 4.J.2.


III.ii.5.H.1.g.
Transfer of Paper Special-Handling Cases Between ROs

Follow the steps in the table below when transferring paper claims folders between ROs during the special-handling period.
Step
Action
1
Prior to mailing the paper claims folder, the sending RO must advise the receiving RO of the pending transfer via e-mail or telephone.
2
The VSCM, PMCM or designee at the sending RO (or the Chief of the reviewing staff at CO) certifies over his/her signature that, while the paper claims folder was maintained at that RO, no material was added to or deleted from the record that is subject to review by CAVC.
Note:  The VSCM or PMCM
  • may not delegate certification to a lower authority, and
  • must enter the certification in the space provided on the file insert that BVA placed on the center flap of the paper claims folder.
3
The sending RO must
  • address the paper claims folder to the VSCM or PMCM at the receiving RO, and
  • annotate on the paper claims folder Do Not Open In Mail Room.
4
The VSCM or PMCM at each RO
  • alerts the administrative activity of the priority of these paper claims folders, and
  • makes special arrangements for the paper claims folder to be delivered from the mailroom to the VSCM or PMCM.
5
The sending RO transfers the paper claims folder.
6
If the receiving RO has not received the paper claims folder within fivebusiness days, the receiving RO must alert the sending RO.
Important:  The sending RO must initiate follow-up action to determine the current location of the paper claims folder.

III.ii.5.H.1.h.
Quality Reviews During the Special-Handling Period

Do not refer paper claims folders during the special-handling period to CO for quality review.  If a quality review random selection list includes special-handling folders, contact the Quality Assurance staff to have the list amended.

2.  RO Involvement With Docketed CAVC Appeals


Introduction

  This topic contains information about RO involvement with docketed CAVC appeals, including


Change Date

July, 14, 2015

III.ii.5.H.2.a.  Actions Triggered by the Docketing of an Appeal at CAVC

 
OGC’s CAVC Litigation Group is responsible for litigating appeals that are before the CAVC on behalf of VA’s Secretary.  Within 60 days of the date CAVC places an appeal on its docket, the CAVC Litigation Group is responsible for making copies of the appellant’s claims folder and providing them to both the appellant and CAVC.  VA’s failure to meet this deadline can result in sanctions against VA and its employees.
The table below illustrates the current process utilized to ensure the CAVC Litigation Group is able to retrieve original paper claims folders from ROs in a timely manner.
Step
Action
1
CAVC places an appeal on its docket.
2
The CAVC Litigation Group e-mails a request for the original claims folder to the decision review operations center (DROC) mailbox (VAVBAWAS/ARC/OGC).
3
The DROC routes the request (by e-mail) to the RO.
4
Within five business days, the RO must complete the actions described in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 5.H.2.b.
Notes:
  • If the RO does not complete the actions within five days, the DROC will send a follow-up request to the RO for immediate action.
  • The CAVC Litigation Group has access to electronic claims folders in Virtual VA and the Veterans Benefits Management System.  Therefore, ROs should never receive a request from the CAVC Litigation Group through the DROC for an appellant’s claims folder if the claims folder is entirely paperless.

III.ii.5.H.2.b.    Procedure for Responding to a Request From the CAVC Litigation Group for a Paper Claims Folder

 
ROs must complete the actions described in the table below within five business days of receiving a request from the DROC for transfer of a paper claims folder to the CAVC Litigation Group.
Step
Action
1
Locate the paper claims folder.
If the paper claims folder cannot be located, follow the instructions inM21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 5.H.2.c.
2
Does the appellant have a claim pending at the RO?
  • If yes, proceed to Step 3.
  • If no, proceed to Step 5.
3
Make a photocopy of documents within the paper claims folder that are necessary to continue processing the claim.
4
Create a temporary file, if one does not already exist, according to the instructions in the COVERS User Guide, for storing the photocopies referenced in Step 3.
Reference:  For more information on a temporary file see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 4.I.2.
5
Take folder-maintenance measures, if necessary.
Reference:  For more information on folder maintenance, see
6
Prepare a shipping manifest and drop it in the box in which the claims folder will be shipped.
7
Ship the paper claims folder to
VA Office of General Counsel (027)
ATTN: Charlesworth C. Williams
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Note:  Unless otherwise directed, the RO must ship the paper claims folders to the CAVC Litigation Group using an overnight or express mail delivery system with tracking.
8
When transferring paper claims folder
  • update COVERS to reflect the temporary transfer of the  paper claims folder to the CAVC Litigation Group, and
  • e-mail the tracking number(s) associated with the shipment referenced in Step 7 to the CAVC Litigation Group and DROC at VAVBAWAS/ARC/OGC.
Notes:
  • OGC must receive the paper claims folders in advance of the CAVC deadlines because the CAVC Litigation Group needs sufficient time to scan the paper claims folders.
  • If the RO does not transfer the paper claims folder to the CAVC Litigation Group within five days, the DROC will send a follow-up request to the RO for immediate actions.

III.ii.5.H.2.c.
Actions an RO Must Take if it Cannot Locate a Paper Claims Folder the CAVC Litigation Group Requests

ROs must make every attempt to locate a paper claims folder that the CAVC Litigation Group requests through the DROC.  This includes conducting a thorough search for the paper claims folder, as set forth in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 4.D.1 and 2, if necessary.
If the RO remains unable to locate the paper claims folder, the VSCM or PMCM must prepare a formal declaration to CAVC that details the efforts the RO undertook to locate the paper claims folder
  • The declaration must open with the following statement
    I, [VSCM or PMCM name], am the [Veterans Service or Pension Management] Center Manager of the [RO name] in [city, state].  I am submitting this declaration in order to inform the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims of the efforts made to locate the claims folder for [name of the appellant].
  • Additional declarations from other supervisory and non-supervisory employees may be necessary in order to provide detailed information regarding the nature of the efforts the RO undertook to locate the paper claims folder.
  • The declaration must also include the following information:
    • the date the DROC requested the paper claims folder from the RO and the means whereby it made the request (typically by e-mail)
    • confirmation that the RO followed the procedures for locating the paper claims folder, as set forth in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 4.D.1 and 2
    • the name of the employee primarily responsible for locating the paper claims folder
    • the name of the employee who first attempted to locate the paper claims folder and the date of the first attempt, and
    • the names of other employees who conducted searches, the dates of the searches, and the means they used to conduct their searches.
  • If searches for the paper claims folder are still underway, the declaration must describe how the searches are being conducted, their frequency, and the date of the most recent search.
  • If the RO is reconstructing the paper claims folder, the declaration must
    • describe the related actions the RO has taken to date, and
    • specify whether the RO has asked the appellant and his/her representative to provide any relevant records in their possession.
  • The declaration must close with the following certification
    I, [VSCM or PMCM name], hereby certify on this date, [current date], that the statements herein are true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.

3.  Final CAVC Decisions on Pending Appeals


Introduction

This topic contains information on final CAVC decisions on pending appeals, including


Change Date

July 14, 2015

III.ii.5.H.3.a.
Possible Scenarios After the CAVC Decision

There are two possible scenarios that occur when CAVC issues a final decision on a pending appeal.
The table below describes the two possible scenarios.
Possible Scenario
Description
1
CAVC’s determination completes the appellate process.
Reference:  For more information on the completion of the appellate process, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 5.H.3.b.
2
CAVC issues a remand on the appellate issue(s).
Reference:  For more information on the process when CAVC issues a remand, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 5.H.3.c.

III.ii.5.H.3.b.
Process Upon CAVC’s Completion of the Pending Appeal

Follow the steps in the table below when CAVC’s determination completes the appellate process.
Step
Action
1
The VSCM or PMCM receives a copy of the final decision.
2
The VSCM or PMCM designates an employee to review the order or decision to determine if action is necessary.
Example:  The RO determines whether to provide an application for benefits when the CAVC order
  • dismisses the appeal because of the death of the appellant, and
  • indicates that a specific individual’s communication to CAVC about the death was an informal claim for accrued or death benefits if received prior to March 24, 2015.
Note:  Claims for benefits received on or after March 24, 2015, must be submitted on the prescribed VA form.
3
The designated employee initiates any necessary RO action.

III.ii.5.H.3.c.
Process Upon Receipt of CAVC Remand of Appellate Issue(s)

Follow the steps in the table shown below when CAVC issues a remand on the appellate issue(s).
Step
Action
1
BVA receives notification of the remand on the appellate issue(s).
2
BVA
  • requests the paper claims folder from the RO, and
  • indicates that the request involves a CAVC remand.
3
The RO sends the paper claims folder to the following address:
Office of the Director, Administrative Service (014)
Lafayette Building
811 Vermont Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20420-0001.

III.ii.5.H.3.d.
First Dispositive Pleadings

The CAVC Litigation Group will return the paper claims folders to ROs when CAVC has taken final action before a first dispositive pleading has been filed.  Such cases involve, but are not limited to, findings that the

  • CAVC lacks jurisdiction over the appellate issue(s), and
  • appellant did not comply with CAVC rules.
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