SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined a bipartisan coalition of 42 attorneys general in submitting a letter to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) opposing its decision to reverse a decades-long policy that allows Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) 48 hours to review decisions on veteran disability claims. VSOs assist veterans to streamline the complicated claims process and help detect preventable VA errors that, if not detected, can cause months or years of appeals that prevent veterans from accessing critical disability benefits. Today’s letter calls on the VA to maintain its crucial 48-hour review policy so that veterans continue to timely receive their deserved benefits.
“We’re in the midst of a pandemic that has already killed over 129,000 Americans. Blocking Veterans Service Organizations from assisting our vets applying for disability claims during the 48-hour review period is about as callous and short-sighted as you can get,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The VSOs’ 48-hour review period is critical for enabling disabled veterans to receive the benefits that they are entitled to in a timely manner. Why expose disabled veterans applying for benefits to preventable mistakes that can cause them years of harm and distress? We will continue to stand up for our veterans and all those who have served our country.”
The VA benefits application process is complicated, and VSOs, including California's County Veteran Service Offices, work with veterans alongside the VA to ensure that claims are processed accurately. Errors are not uncommon within the VA claims system. The 48-hour review period allows VSOs to timely review proposed benefit claims decisions and catch errors before decisions become final. By catching mistakes early, VSOs save veterans from having to fight through months, or sometimes years, of appeals in order to access their much-needed compensation. In the letter, the coalition emphasizes that implementing a policy change of this significance during the COVID-19 pandemic will potentially harm veterans and lead to more confusion and frustration in the claims process. Additionally, the coalition asks the VA to postpone any changes to its long-standing policy and consider alternative solutions that do not call for complete elimination of this critical review period.
Attorney General Becerra supports strong consumer protections for our nation’s service members, veterans, and their families. In April 2020, Attorney General Becerra submitted a letter urging the VA to suspend deadlines and collection activities for veterans because of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In May 2019, Attorney General Becerra submitted a letter urging the U.S. Department of Education to discharge the student loans of tens of thousands of veterans who were disabled as part of their service. That same month, he also secured a $1.8 million settlement against a deceptive charity, Help the Vets, Inc., for claiming their charity helped veterans when, in fact, almost none of the funds went towards veteran assistance. In July 2019, he announced the arrest and indictment of four individuals in a $4.8 million insurance sales scheme targeting US Navy sailors in San Diego, and he continues to litigate against online school Ashford University and its affiliate Bridgepoint Education (now Zovio) for predatory practices affecting its students, including students who are veterans.
In submitting today’s letter, Attorney General Becerra is joined by the attorneys general of Illinois, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, and Guam.
A copy of the letter is available here.