Norton Asks VA to Indefinitely Suspend Benefit Deadlines for Veterans

Mar 20, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today sent a letter to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA), Robert Wilkie, asking that the VA indefinitely suspend all timely filing deadlines for veterans and surviving family members with an Intent to File (ITF) submission. 

 

Filing timely ITF submissions is necessary for veterans to receive yearly disability benefits and pension payments. Older veterans often need assistance from Veterans Service Officers (VSOs) to file ITF submissions but, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, veterans have limited access to VSOs and the VA is closing regional offices to the public, no longer accepting walk-ins for claims assistance or counseling. These closures will dramatically impact veterans seeking to connect with VSOs, and may cause veterans to miss deadlines for ITF submissions.   

 

“The 30,000 veterans and their families here in the District of Columbia could be impacted,” Norton said. “Enforcing deadlines for disability benefits and pension payments in the midst of a pandemic for men and women who served our nation would be unconscionable. The least our veterans are entitled to is the suspension of deadlines that could cause the loss of disability or pension payments.”

 

The letter follows below.

 

 

The Honorable Robert Wilkie

Secretary

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Washington, D.C. 20571

 

Dear Secretary Wilkie,

I ask that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) indefinitely suspend all timely filing deadlines for veterans and surviving family members with an Intent to File (ITF) submission. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 30,000 veterans and their families in the nation’s capital alone are at risk of losing eligibility for a year's worth of VA disability and pension payments. Older veterans filing for these benefits often need the assistance of a Veteran Service Officer (VSO) to guide them through the submission process. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, VSOs are extremely limited, and regional offices like the National Capital Regional Office are closing to the public, putting older veterans at greater risk of missing filing deadlines, which could ultimately cost a year's worth of benefits.

 

The ITF was developed by the VA in an effort to preserve and protect the date of claim for veterans and their families. Once an ITF has been submitted to the VA, the eligible veteran has one calendar year to submit a formal claim before that protection is terminated. The date a veteran’s ITF is received by the VA marks the start of their year of eligibility. Termination of an ITF can result in an eligible veteran or family member losing a year's worth of disability benefits or pension payments. As of March 19, 2020, the Veterans Benefits Administration Regional Offices are closing to the public and will no longer accept walk-ins for claims assistance or counseling. These closures will dramatically impact veterans seeking to connect with a VSO, and may cause veterans to miss deadlines for ITF submissions.

 

With the closure of the Veterans Benefits Administration Regional Offices, our most vulnerable veterans are at risk of losing access to disability benefits and pension payments. 

 

I urge the VA to suspend all timely filing deadlines for veterans and surviving family members with an ITF submission. Please respond in writing immediately on whether you will take this action.

 

Thank you for your consideration.

 

Sincerely,
Eleanor Holmes Norton

 

 

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