Anyone who has used a VA medical facility has encountered unnecessary delays in service. Yet most such delays are avoidable. To avert long waits in processing, simply follow these "top 10" steps.
1. Read the instructions. Although the print is small and frequently confusing, the 10-15 minutes you take to read and understand instructions may save you months of hassles and misunderstandings.
For instance, VA form 21-526 is used to file tot compensation and/or pension benefits. If you only want compensation and you read the instructions carefully, you will soon see that about one-half of the form need not be completed.
2. Answer each question. Each question on claim forms has a certain purpose, however trivial it may seem.
Leaving questions blank may cause delays, reduced benefits or denials. It's better to reply "None" or "Unknown" than to leave any space blank.
Feel free to attach a blank sheet of paper to your claim to clarify unusual situations. Example: The question asks for your children's Social Security numbers, and you leave it blank. This will raise a red flag immediately.
However, if you attach an additional sheet to explain that you married a foreign national with two children and are now in the process of applying for their Social Security numbers, this will clarify the situation.
3. Use your claim or reference number. Your parents took time in choosing your name and it's important to you, but in this age of computers it's the number that counts.
Omitting the claim number on letters and forms begs for delays.
Sometimes a claim will never even get to the right department without the number. It never changes and can be easily located by calling VA.
Don't make the classic mistake of writing your reference number only on the outside of your envelope. Your correspondence is opened in the mail room, the contents removed and sent on its way, and your envelope is usually discarded.
4. Let the government agency know if you move. If you move and don't inform VA, you may not get your checks or important letters. Be sure to advise your local post office to forward your mail. It will do so for up to a year.
VA is divided into several large departments, and their computers are not yet all talking to each other (they are working on that). If you call your local VA hospital to change the address for your clinic appointments, never assume that information will get to the regional office to update your monthly compensation check. This suggestion is especially true if you have direct deposit of your check.