A publication of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

December 2001/January 2002

Vietnam Veterans Assistance Fund Report

Veterans Benefits Program

A VVA Staff Report

During the fiscal year ending September 30, Vietnam Veterans Assistance Fund (VVAF) provided funds to Vietnam Veterans of America. These funds were used to support several important programs. The majority of VVAF’s contribution was applied to VVA’s Veterans Benefits Program’s (VBP) service representative program. This program delivers effective and aggressive services to disabled veterans and their families in the pursuit of federal compensation and pension benefits. Under the service representative program, accredited VVA service representatives (authorized by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to represent veterans and their dependents), working on behalf of VVA state councils in ten states, provided representation to veterans and their families before VA regional offices.

Their assistance is provided without charge. These service representatives are part of a nationwide network of four hundred accredited VVA service representatives who represent veterans in 41 states, territories, and the District of Columbia. During the last fiscal year, VVA service representatives, whose VVA state councils are direct recipients of VVAF grant funds secured more than $30.5 million in VA benefits on behalf of disabled veterans and their families. With VVAF’s assistance, the VBP plans to increase the number of VVA state councils that support VVA service representatives during the next fiscal year.

The remainder of VVAF’s contribution supported VVA’s highly successful VBP. In addition to administering VVA’s service representative program, the VBP provided appellate representation for Vietnam-era veterans and their dependents before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

This representation was rendered, in part, through a contract with the law firm of Wildhaber & Associates. Under the direction of attorney Michael E. Wildhaber, the firm provided 72 claimants in 24 states and territories with representation before the BVA and the federal courts. With the law firm’s assistance, VBP filed legal briefs and other pleadings before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals for some 420 claimants throughout the United States, and received favorable decisions (including outright grants of benefits and remand decisions that vacated adverse VA Regional Office decisions for development and readjudication) at a rate of 82 percent. This remains, as in previous years, the highest annual favorable decision rate of all congressionally chartered veterans service organizations. The VBP also filed friend-of-the-court briefs in two federal cases that could affect the rights of thousands of veterans under the Veterans Claims Assistance Act of 2000.

In addition to their representational duties, VBP staff prepared and presented written and oral testimony to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on a wide range of issues, including oversight of the Veterans Benefits Administration, VA benefits claims adjudication procedures, homeless veterans, and long-overdue VA benefits and healthcare reform. VBP staff also testified before the Secretary of Veterans Affairs’ Claims Processing Task Force concerning problems underlying delayed and incorrect VA benefits decisions and recommendations for remedying these problems. The VBP also provided official comments to proposed federal regulations that affect veterans with the Administrative Procedures Act.

The VBP produced several issues of the Veterans Benefits News, which keeps our service representatives, state councils, and chapters updated on developments in veterans benefits law, regulations, judicial decisions, and veterans advocacy and a regular column for The VVA Veteran. Furthermore, the program conducted an intensive basic veterans service representative training class in Washington, an advanced training program for already accredited service representatives in Chicago, and several veterans service coordinator training classes across the country. By maintaining a well-trained representation force, VVA continues to help our nation’s veterans and their dependents receive the benefits and healthcare to which they are entitled.

With VVAF’s continued assistance, the VBP hopes to surpass its previous successes in the years to come.

   

E-mail us at TheVeteran@vva.org


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