VA Announces End to COVID-Era Claim Delays
The Department of Veteran Affairs has announced changes in how it handles claim appointments and processes VA claims post-pandemic. The VA response to the pandemic included policies that delayed certain in-person claim procedures, but those have since ended, as we’ll examine below.
Why VA Policies are Changing
In the first quarter of 2020, a national emergency was declared following an outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States. Because of this, the VA “adjusted how it processed claims, acknowledging how the pandemic affected certain aspects of the claim process, such as claim exams or hearings,” according to the VA official site.
Due to pandemic restrictions, many who filed VA claims could not attend in-person exams or screenings. The VA modified its claims policies to allow for such delays.
In May 2023, news outlets announced the declaration of the end of the national health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That same month, the World Health Organization announced an end to the emergency phase of the pandemic.
With those changes came an end to a number of protective measures, including mask mandates, “essential travel only” restrictions, and related precautions. Veterans can freely travel to their appointments, get in-person exams, etc.
In June 2023, the Department of Veterans Affairs formally announced, “Now that the national emergency declaration has ended, VA will no longer delay claims due to COVID-19 concerns.”
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What Has Changed at the VA?
When the COVID-19 national emergency was in full swing, veterans had the option to attend in-person appointments if they were able. But those who chose to delay them were allowed to under then-current VA policy.
The exams could be delayed, but these veterans’ overall claims processing cycle were also delayed. This was permitted under VA policy which ended on June 10, 2023. From that date forward, the VA does not allow delaying an appointment due to “general COVID-19 concerns.”
If you have a claim exam scheduled, the Department of Veterans Affairs sends a notification, and you are “encouraged to attend” as “Claim exams and hearings are important to the claims process since they can provide additional information in support of a pending claim,” according to VA.gov.
The VA adds, “If a claimant does not attend their scheduled claim exam or hearing due to general COVID-19 concerns, the claim will continue to be processed,” and the failure to attend the exam may not help the veteran’s cause in getting a VA rating.
Exceptions Due to COVID-19 diagnosis
While it is true that “general COVID-19 concerns” are no longer permitted as a reason to delay a VA hearing or examination, a positive COVID-19 diagnosis is a different issue.
VA policy announced in June 10 2023, says in cases where you cannot attend a VA exam or hearing due to testing positive for COVID019, “they can notify VA and the request will be rescheduled. VA may also allow requests for certain time limit extensions due to lengthy COVID-19 hospitalization.”
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About the author
Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.