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Wolfsteller: The 48-hour review is critical for service organizations to aid vets

VA & Rehabilitation
By Jeremy Wolfsteller

The American Legion’s national commander sends President Trump a letter on behalf of veterans, service-member, families and survivors asking on the president to instruct the secretary of veterans affairs to maintain the 48-hour review, a decades-old practice allowing veteran service organizations like the Legion to review benefits decisions for accuracy before those decisions are finalized.

Jeremy Wolfsteller

As the world hunkers down from life as we know it, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs decides it is a great time to make a drastic change in the way the agency conducts its business, maybe hoping nobody notices. The drastic move involves the agencies collaboration with veteran service organizations allowing them to represent veterans filing for benefits.

Just to recap, veteran service organizations like The American Legion have trained staff across the country to advocate for veterans filing claims with the VA and by law, VA recognizes VSOs as a veterans’ power-of-attorney or representative when navigating the bureaucracy of VA benefits. This great responsibility comes with special privilege for POAs to be able to effectively advocate for their claimant.

This privilege grants POAs access to VA’s multiple software programs to view veterans claim files as they are being developed by the VA. Once VA has a veterans claim ready to rate, the VA contacts the POA office of jurisdiction informing them they have 48 hours to review their decision before the claim is promulgated or made final.

If the VSO acting as POA finds an error during the 48-hour review they can notify the VA to address the error. This is a critical part of the advocacy process that could affect a decision on a claim, whether being granted or the level of the disability percentage being awarded among other issues like retroactive pay, award dates and inadequate C&P exams. This critical process has prevented hundreds of thousands of veterans over the years from having their claims denied and having to be appealed. This has also directly assisted the VA preventing further Board of Veterans Appeals backlogs.

The Minnesota American Legion was way ahead of the importance of the 48-hour review practice and drafted a resolution addressing that the 48-hour review needs to be reworded to 48 business hours, which was passed during the 2017 National Convention in Reno Nevada. With this resolution on file, it is The American Legion’s official position on the issue and has used this position to lobby Congress to draft legislation that if past would create a law that VA would have to allow a decision review process for POAs.

On May 19, Sen. Joe Tester of Montana introduced a bill called the Veterans Claims Transparency Act. This legislation will require VA to reinstate the 48-hour review.

This is The American Legion; this is how our members make a difference. We are a century old organization that will always ensure our veterans have a fair fight in the way they are treated.

For God and Country!

Jeremy Wolfsteller is the Department of Minnesota service officer. His email is jwolfsteller@mnlegion.org.

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