VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS OF THE UNITED STATES

NATIONAL VETERANS SERVICE

 POLICY AND PROCEDURE

 

authority

VFW National Veterans Service

Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service

VFW Volunteer Program

VFW Guide for Post Service Officer

VFW Accreditation

VFW Powers of Attorney

VFW representation - general

VFW representation - administrative

VFW Representation - technical

VFW Representation (general) U.S. Court of appeals for veterans claims

VFW representation (administrative) u.s. court of appeals for veterans claims

VFW national veterans service grants

code of conduct for VFW representatives

adoption

 


 

AUTHORITY

 

Section 615 of the By-Laws of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (hereinafter referred to as VFW) provides that the National Veterans Service Committee shall control the veterans service programs of the VFW under the supervision of the National Council of Administration and subject to the provisions of the National By-Laws and orders of the National Convention. 

 

The policy and procedure contained herein are issued for guidance of all persons providing assistance under the auspices of the National Veterans Service.

 

VFW NATIONAL VETERANS SERVICE

  1. In accordance with the policy and instruction of the National Veterans Service Committee, the Director, National Veterans Service, shall be responsible for the    administration, supervision and technical guidance of all activities, programs and       personnel of the National Veterans Service, under the direct supervision of the   Assistant Adjutant General and Executive Director of the VFW Washington Office.
     

  2. In accordance with policy approved by the National Council of Administration, decisions of the Director, National Veterans Service, with respect to the appointment of employees and other personnel actions, travel authority, purchases, vouchers and other administrative matters, are subject to review and approval by the Executive Director of the VFW Washington Office.
     

  3. The National Veterans Service shall consist of positions recommended by the National Veterans Service Committee, with the advice and consent of the VFW Adjutant General and the Executive Director of the VFW Washington Office, for approval by the VFW Commander-in-Chief and the National Council of Administration.
     

  4. The incumbent employee of each National Veterans Service staff position shall perform the regularly assigned  duties of the position and shall assume such other responsibilities and duties as assigned by the Director, National Veterans Service.
     
  5. The National Veterans Service Committee may, for reasons determined to be good and sufficient, terminate any employee of the National Veterans Service upon recommendation by the Director, National Veterans Service, with approval of the Executive Director of the Washington Office, or upon its own initiative.

 

VETERANS AFFAIRS VOLUNTARY SERVICE

 

The Director, National Veterans Service, shall serve as the VFW National Representative on the Department of Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service (VAVS) National Advisory Committee and shall:

  1. Designate a member(s) of the National Veterans Service staff to serve as Deputy National VAVS Representative(s) on such committee;
     
  2. Prepare and distribute VAVS information in pamphlet or other form, for the guidance of VFW Department Commanders, VFW Department Hospital   Chairpersons, and VFW VAVS representatives on individual Department of  Veterans Affairs' Medical Center VAVS Advisory committees.

 

VFW VOLUNTEER PROGRAM

 

The Director, National Veterans Service, shall administer the VFW Volunteer Program and shall:

 

      A.  Designate a member of the National Veterans Service staff to serve as the program coordinator;

 

      B.   Prepare and distribute information, in pamphlet or other form, for the guidance of VFW Department Commanders, VFW Department Volunteer Coordinators and VFW Facility Volunteer Coordinators.

 

VFW GUIDE FOR POST SERVICE OFFICERS

 

1.    The Director, National Veterans Service, shall prepare and publish a revised edition of the “VFW GUIDE FOR POST SERVICE OFFICERS" during the first quarter of each odd numbered calendar year.

 

2.    Each VFW Department Service Officer (hereinafter referred to as DSO) shall ensure that all VFW Post, District and County Council Service Officers in the Department have a current edition of the VFW Guide.

  

VFW ACCREDITATION

 

1.   A person shall not function in any capacity as a VFW representative in a claim or other matter before the Department of Veterans Affairs, until such person is officially accredited, through the VFW, by the Department of Veterans Affairs.  VFW Post, County Council and District Service Officers do not require accreditation in the conduct of their normal duties.  With exception of select State and County Veterans Service Officers and support staff at VFW Department Service Offices, accreditation will not be granted to anyone who does not receive NVS training nor has a legitimate need for accreditation by virtue of actually representing claimants directly before the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Accreditation of county veterans service officers will be authorized in a regulated fashion even though they are not actually representing claimants directly before the Department of Veterans Affairs.

 

2.   The Director, National Veterans Service, acting in the capacity as National Certifying Officer, shall certify a VA form 21, Application For Accreditation As Service Organization Representative, to the General Counsel of the Department of Veterans Affairs for the accreditation of an individual as a representative of the VFW.  Once an application for accreditation is approved by the General Counsel, the Director, National Veterans Service shall forward the applicant a copy of this Policy and Procedure and a VFW accredited representative's certificate.

 

3.   Prior to submission of an application for accreditation to the Director, National Veterans Service, such application shall be reviewed by the appropriate DSO and the Assistant Director for Veterans Benefits Policy, who will both ensure that requirements for accreditation are satisfied.

 

4.   Each application for accreditation submitted to the Director, National Veterans Service, is to be accompanied by a cover letter signed by the Department Commander, Adjutant or Service Officer, stating the reason(s) why the applicant should be accredited.  If the cover letter is signed by the DSO, the letter is to show that a copy of the letter and the application were provided to the Department Commander.

 

5.      With the exception of those State Service Officers who have VFW accreditation and who are certified by the respective VFW Department Service Officer as capable of handling all aspects of the claims process, VFW accreditation of a State or County Veterans Service Officer does not authorize such accredited individuals to provide representation or counsel at a personal hearing nor does this accreditation permit the routine review of VA claims folders, the authority for “signing off” on rating decisions or the preparation of a VA form 646 in an appealed case on behalf of VFW claimants.

 

6.  The VFW DSO support staff are not authorized to represent or counsel veterans at personal hearings nor does their accreditation allow them to review claims folders, to “sign off” on rating decisions or prepare a VA form 646.  The accreditation only authorizes support staff access to the VA’s Benefits Delivery Network and other related software systems.

 

7. The Director, National Veterans Service, shall not certify a person to be an accredited representative of the VFW unless such person:

  1. Is a citizen of the United States; 

  2. Is of good character and reputation;

  3. Is not employed by a civil or military department or agency of the United States;

  4. Is a member in good standing of the VFW who functions full-time in veterans service work; if not a member of the VFW, is a full-time employee of the VFW (a part-time employee may be considered under special circumstances) or is an employee of a state or county government agency of veterans affairs whose principle accreditation is to the state, county or to another veterans service organization, and functions full-time in veterans service work; and,

  5. Has successfully completed a Department of Veterans Affairs approved course of instruction on veterans benefits; or has received a passing grade on an examination recognized by the Director, National Veterans Service and approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs, State Department of Veterans Affairs or similarly-named agency; or has demonstrated an ability to satisfactorily represent benefit claims as attested by the Department Service Officer.

 8.  Accreditation of a VFW representative may be cancelled at any time on volition by the General Counsel of the Department of Veterans Affairs or upon a recommendation to the General Counsel for such action by the Director, National Veterans Service, where clear and convincing evidence of one or more of the following concerning such representative, is found

A.   Refuses to comply with or violates laws administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs or with regulations governing practice before the Department or other laws, regulations and/or policies applicable to accredited representatives or any facility at which accredited representatives perform services.

B.   Knowingly presents a fraudulent claim before the Department of Veterans Affairs or before any other governmental department or agency, or knowingly submits false information in connection with a claim before such department or agency

C.   Requests, demands or accepts compensation, in any form, for providing assistance or representation.

D.  Engages in any other unlawful, unprofessional or unethical practice such as deceiving, misleading or threatening a client; neglects to prosecute a claim before the Department of Veterans Affairs in an expeditious manner; fails to provide a reasonable and timely response to a request for evidence by the Department of Veterans Affairs; or, deliberately withholds a client's application for benefits or evidence related thereto, from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

E.      Fails to comply with all policy and procedure prescribed by the National Veterans Service Committee.

F.     Failure by the designated DSO at each Department of Veterans Affairs' regional office (hereinafter referred to as VA regional office), to regularly attend National Veterans Service training conferences, which includes all assigned classes and meetings, unless specifically exempted by the Director, National Veterans Service.

G.     Failure by a Veterans of Foreign Wars accredited State or County Veterans Service Officer to attend recommended proficiency training, which includes all assigned classes and meetings, as directed by the pertinent Veterans of Foreign Wars DSO.

   9.      Accreditation by the Department of Veterans Affairs shall not be deemed by the National Veterans Service as authorization for VFW representatives to represent clients in claims or other matters, before governmental departments or agencies other than the Department of Veterans Affairs.  However, in the case of DSOs, Assistant DSOs and members of the National Veterans Service staff, such accreditation shall serve as authorization if representation is officially provided by the VFW.

 

VFW POWERS OF ATTORNEY

 

1.   A properly executed Power of Attorney through a VA form 21-22, Appointment of Veterans Service Organization as Claimant’s Representative, or other required designation signed by a client which appoints the VFW as representative, must be officially acknowledged by the Department of Veterans Affairs or other governmental department or agency, before the VFW may provide representation of any nature to such client in any matter related to such department or agency.

 

2.   A Power of Attorney or other required designation, shall name the "Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S." as representative without specifying the echelon or address of the VFW representation, or the name of the person who is to represent (Social Security Administration is the exception because it requires a client to provide the name of the person(s) who will represent).

 

3.   A Power of Attorney appointing the VFW as representative in a matter before the Department of Veterans Affairs, may authorize disclosure of information to the local VFW Post, County Council, District, Department or other appropriate veterans assistance personnel, but only if the client authorizes that such information be disclosed as is necessary for the responsible representation of the claim.

 

4.   A Power of Attorney or other required designation shall not be refused or revoked by the VFW except for a compelling reason(s), and then only by the appropriate DSO, the Director, National Veterans Service, or other designee such as the Assistant Director for Veterans Benefits Policy, National Veterans Service. Compelling reasons for refusing or revoking a Power of Attorney or other designation may include but not necessarily be limited to, the following:

      A.  Abusive verbal or physical behavior toward a VFW representative or other VFW staff member, by a client or prospective client.

B.   Repeated and persistent failure by a client to cooperate with a VFW representative, placing the VFW in such a compromised position as to be unable to effectively represent the client's interest.

      C.  Demonstrated pattern of repeated changes of powers of attorney or other required designations, where the claim or other matter for which the person seeks VFW representation is without apparent merit based on a reasonable evaluation of the circumstances.

D.  Interests and objectives of a client or prospective client are fundamentally opposed to those of the VFW.

E.      Convincing evidence of subversive affiliations or activities by a client or prospective client, which demonstrates disloyalty to the United States.

F.      Proven fraud by a client or prospective client in a claim or other matter before the same governmental department or agency before which he or she seeks VFW representation.

G.     Individuals with a designated dishonorable discharge from the military.

5.   A Power of Attorney or other required designation, shall be refused by the VFW in any case where a person has retained representation by an attorney or agent, whether or not such representation is on a limited basis, notwithstanding Department of Veterans Affairs regulations permitting such dual representation.  If the prospective client provides a statement in writing to the appropriate governmental department or agency involved, wherein he or she cancels representation by such attorney or agent, the VFW may accept or retain the Power of Attorney.

 

6.   A Power of Attorney may not be accepted by the VFW in a claim before the Department of Veterans Affairs once the individual's substantive appeal on a VA form 9, Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, has been submitted, unless compelling circumstances exist and advance approval is obtained from the Director, National Veterans Service or Assistant Director for Veterans Benefits Policy, National Veterans Service. This does not preclude the VFW from accepting the Power of Attorney in subsequent claims before the Department of Veterans Affairs.

 

7.   A power of Attorney may not be revoked after the submission of a veteran’s Substantive Appeal on a VA form 9, Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals without coordination with the NVS Appeals Section Supervisor and permission granted by the Assistant Director, Veterans Benefits Policy.

 

8.   A Power of Attorney or other required designation, shall not be refused or revoked by the VFW on the grounds of a client or prospective client's race, color, sex or religious beliefs, and shall not be refused or revoked on the grounds of length and type (including character) of service in the Armed Forces of the United States, except under conditions stipulated in 4(E) and 4(G) of this section.

 

9.   A Power of Attorney shall not be refused or revoked by the VFW on the grounds that a claim before the Department of Veterans Affairs is contested.  However, it shall not be incumbent upon the VFW to represent a person whose interests are opposed to those of a veteran, a widow or orphan, except when the opposing party has an apparent legal right to the benefit sought.  In such exceptions and in the event the VFW receives a Power of Attorney from more than one party, it will accept (honor) the first Power of Attorney received.

 

10. A Power of Attorney or other required designation shall not be refused or revoked by the VFW on the grounds that the client or prospective client is not a member of the VFW, irrespective of whether he or she is eligible for such membership.  VFW representatives, when appropriate, should inform clients of benefits accruing from membership in the VFW.

 

VFW REPRESENTATION - GENERAL

 

1.      VFW Department Service Offices shall be located within the appropriate VA regional office and staffed by not less than one full-time VFW accredited representative and full-time clerical support appointed by the respective VFW Department Commanders or other Department officials or committees which, have such jurisdiction and authority.  In keeping with National VFW policy, a person who is not a member in good standing of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States will not be employed as a State/Department Service Officer or an Assistant State/Department Service Officer.  Exceptions to the location of the Department Service Office will be forwarded to the Chairman of the National Veterans Service Committee, through the Director, National Veterans Service, for approval.

 

2.   Any individual accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs as a VFW representative shall be fully responsible for compliance with all laws and regulations of each governmental department or agency governing confidentiality of information and release of information from official records.  Information should be released only if authorized by the client, and only to the extent authorized.

 

3.   VFW accredited representatives shall, under no circumstances, serve as guardians, committees or fiduciaries by any other designation, of veterans or other persons receiving benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

 

4.   Representation or other assistance by the National Veterans Service staff, DSOs, Assistant DSOs, District Service Officers, County Council Service Officer, Post Service Officers and by all other VFW representatives, is gratuitous and under no circumstances shall such representatives demand, request or receive remuneration in cash or in any other form, from persons to whom representation or other assistance is provided.

 

5.   The nature and extent of VFW representation in claims or other matters before the Department of Veterans Affairs or before any other governmental department or agency, shall, under no circumstances, be influenced or otherwise dependent upon a client's race, color, sex, religious beliefs, length and type of service in the Armed Forces of the United States (including character except as stipulated in section 4(G) of “VFW Powers of Attorney”) and VFW membership status.

 

6.   VFW representatives shall:

      A.  Comply with all laws and regulations of the governmental department or agency before
       which representation is provided.

      B.   Not knowingly represent a fraudulent claim before the Department of Veterans Affairs or before any other governmental department or agency, or not knowingly submit false information in connection with a claim before such department or agency.

      C.  Not commit any other unlawful, unprofessional or unethical practices such as deceiving, misleading or threatening a client or prospective client; not neglect to prosecute a claim before the Department of Veteran Affairs in an expeditious manner; not fail to provide a reasonable and timely response to a request for evidence by the Department of Veterans Affairs; nor not deliberately withhold a client's application for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs or from any other governmental department or agency.

7.   Representation by the VFW shall not necessarily be limited to claims and other matters before the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Where circumstances permit, representation may be provided in claims or other matters before the Department of Defense Correction and Discharge Review Boards, Social Security Administration, and before other governmental departments and agencies.

 

8.   A VFW Post Service Officer shall keep members of the Post apprised of veterans benefits offered by federal, state and local governments, and shall assist members of the Post, their dependents and survivors, and others, in preparing appropriate application forms for such benefits and in assembling supporting evidence.  The Order of Business for VFW Posts prescribed in the VFW Ritual requires that the VFW Post Service Officer submit a report at each Post business meeting.  Post, County Council and District Service Officers shall:

A.  Have access to a current edition of the VFW Guide for Post Service Officers and shall perform duties in accordance with instructions contained therein.

B.   Be under the general supervision of the DSO and shall transmit all correspondence, applications, evidence, etc., in connection with benefit claims and other matters, to the DSO.

C.  Not make direct contact concerning a claim or other matter, with the Department of Veterans Affairs or with any other governmental department or agency unless, because of the urgency in a specific case (such as immediate admission of an emergently ill veteran to a medical center), it is absolutely necessary to establish direct contact with an official(s) of the appropriate Department of Veterans Affairs facility.

9.     Representation at the VFW Department level in a claim or other matter involving a Department of Defense Correction or Discharge Review Board or Department of Homeland Security with respect to United States Coast Guard claims, and appeals involving Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) or Combat Disability Pay (CDP), shall generally be advising and assisting the client in properly preparing the appropriate form(s) and in procuring supporting evidence.  The DSO shall then forward the documents directly to the address of the branch of the Armed Forces service listed on the pertinent application form with notification provided to the National Service Office Supervisor located at the Washington (DC) VA Regional Office.

 

10.   Representation at the VFW Department level in a claim or other matter involving employment, shall generally be limited to advising and where indicated, assisting the client in preparing the appropriate form(s) and/or letter(s), and in procuring supporting evidence.  Inquiries on matters concerning employment shall be directed to the Director, National Veterans Employment Assistance Service at the VFW Washington Office.

 

11.   Representation at the VFW Department level in a claim or other matter involving an insurance policy issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs, generally shall be limited to advising and assisting the client in preparing the appropriate form(s) and in procuring supporting evidence. 

A.  Claims involving National Service Life insurance (NSLI), United States Government Life Insurance (USGLI), Veterans Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI, and claims which involve any other insurance policy issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs and inquiries concerning insurance matters shall generally be referred to the VFW Department Service Office at the Philadelphia VA Regional Office and Insurance Center for processing and further representation.

B.  VFW representatives shall not represent a person in a legal suit concerning any government or other life insurance policy before a United States District Court or any other court.  However, the VFW may represent qualified cases before the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

12.   A claim for benefits administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (other than insurance) where the client resides outside the 50 states which comprise the United States, generally shall be referred to the VFW Department Service Office at the Pittsburgh, PA VA Regional Office for processing and representation.  Exceptions are as follows:

A.  A claim by a client residing in Mexico, Central America or South America shall generally be referred to the VFW Department Service Office at the Houston VA Regional Office, for processing and further representation.

B.     A claim by a client residing in American Samoa or Guam generally shall be referred to the VFW Service Office at the Honolulu VA Regional Office, for processing and further representation.

C.     A claim by a client residing in Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands should be referred to the San Juan VA Regional Office, for processing and further representation.

D.     A claim by a client residing in Canada should be referred to the VA Regional Office in White River Junction for processing and further representation.

E.      A claim necessitating the adjudication at the Manila (Philippine Islands) VA Regional Office shall be referred to the VFW Pacific Areas Department Service Officer located at the Manila Regional Office.

13.   A claim under the VA Restored Entitlement Program for Survivors (REPS) concerning basic eligibility shall be represented by the VFW Department Service Office at the respective VA regional office.  Once basic eligibility is established, the case is forwarded to the St. Louis VA Regional Office, for a determination on REPS entitlement.  Inquiries and other matters related to the claim shall be transmitted to the VFW Department Service Office at the St. Louis VA Regional Office.

 

14.   A claim under the All-Volunteer Force Educational Assistance Program (Chapter 30 of Title 38 United States Code), irrespective of where the client resides, will be referred to the appropriate VA regional office in Atlanta, Buffalo, Muskogee or St. Louis, or at such other office future designated by the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Inquiries and other matters related to the claim shall be transmitted to the VFW Department Service Officer at the appropriate VA regional office.

 

15.     A claim where a veteran’s active military service predated July 16, 1903, generally shall be referred to the VFW National Service Office at the Washington, DC VA Regional Office, for processing and further representation.

 

16.     Basic and minimum standards of professionalism for VFW Service Officers and representatives are outlined at Appendix 1 (Code of Conduct for VFW Representatives).

 

VFW REPRESENTATION - ADMINISTRATIVE

 

1.      Post, County Council and District Service Officers, and VFW accredited representatives, particularly those not stationed at VA regional offices, shall transmit all correspondence, applications, evidence, etc., pertaining to individual claims for benefits administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, or by any other governmental department or agency, to the VFW Department Service Office at the appropriate VA regional office.

 

2.   DSOs, Assistant DSOs, claims consultants and claims representatives are subject to the professional and technical supervision of the Director, National Veterans Service.

 

3.   DSOs and Assistant DSOs shall transmit all inquiries, etc., requiring consideration by the central office of the Department of Veterans Affairs or by the central office of any other federal governmental department or agency, to the Director, National Veterans Service.  The Director may delegate the authority to review these requests.

A.  DSOs shall transmit, in writing, all formal requests for Administrative Review of VA regional office claims decisions to the Director, National Veterans Service.  Such requests are to contain the specific reason(s) for Administrative Review along with technical supporting rationale.  The foregoing is not intended to prohibit the DSO (or a designated Assistant DSO) from discussing the advisability of  Administrative Review by telephone or other means, with National Veterans Service staff, prior to the formal written request by the DSO.

B.   DSOs shall transmit, in writing, all formal requests for reconsideration of Board of Veterans’ Appeals decisions to the Director, National Veterans Service.  Such requests are to contain the specific reason(s) for reconsideration along with technical supporting rationale.  If a personal hearing in reference to reconsideration is desired, this shall be so stated on the request.  The foregoing is not intended to prohibit the DSO or a designated Assistant DSO from discussing the advisability of reconsideration by telephone or other means, with the National Veterans Service staff prior to the formal written request by the DSO.

      C.  In the case of a formal request for either Administrative Review or reconsideration of a Department of Veterans Affairs' decision, where the Director, National Veterans Service or staff designee determines that the requirements for submission of the request to the Department of Veterans Affairs are not met, the Director, or designee, will so notify the appropriate DSO in writing, setting forth the reason(s) why such request is not appropriate.

4.   If, after exhausting professional channels at a VA regional office or medical facility, or at any other governmental department or agency, a DSO is unable to resolve an administrative conflict or issue with such department or agency, he or she may contact the Director, National Veterans Service for appropriate action.

 

5.   Each VFW Department Service Office and each National Veterans Service staff office shall maintain a library of current reference material.  The National Veterans Service shall keep each office informed, as far as practical, of the most current needed resource material.

 

6.   DSOs stationed at VA regional offices and members of the National Veterans Service staff designated by the Director, National Veterans Service, shall attend National Veterans Service training conferences, including all scheduled classes and meetings, unless specifically excused by the Director because of compelling circumstances.

 

7.   DSOs, Assistant DSOs, claims consultants, and claims representatives who are stationed at VA regional offices, shall, if feasible, attend all Department of Veterans Affairs sponsored training at their respective stations.

 

8.   Each VFW Department Service Office should develop, and actively conduct, a veterans' outreach program.

 

9.   VFW Department Service Office files shall not be co-mingled with files of other veterans service organizations.  The exceptions to this are those offices operated by state or county government agencies, in which case those agencies must ensure the security and confidentiality of such VFW records, by prohibiting their access to other than staff members who are accredited to the VFW.

 

10.   DSOs and designated members of the National Veterans Service staff shall provide monthly activity reports to the Director, National Veterans Service.  Such reports shall be of the nature and in the format prescribed by the Director.

 

11.   DSOs should conduct at least one VFW Post Service Officers School for all Post, County and District Service Officers in the Department, during each Department fiscal year.  Such individuals will be encouraged to attend this training.

 

12.   VFW Department Service Office personnel and members of the National Veterans Service staff, shall dress and otherwise conduct themselves in a professional and businesslike manner, during the course of business activities.

 

13.   All official correspondence by DSOs, Assistant DSOs and members of the National Veterans Service staff shall be on VFW letterhead.  The exceptions are those DSOs and Assistant DSOs employed by state or county government agencies, who are expected to use appropriate agency letterhead.

 

VFW REPRESENTATION - TECHNICAL

 

1.   VFW representatives at all echelons, shall apprise each client of all benefits to which he or she may be entitled.

 

2.      DSOs, Assistant DSOs, National Veterans Service staff members and all other VFW representatives, shall not withhold the submission of a claim for benefits administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, except for the most compelling reason(s), because such withholding in a claim subsequently resolved in favor of the client, may deprive the client of an earlier effective date of the benefit.

 

3.      DSOs have the authority to certify the authenticity of copies of certain official documents to VA regional offices in individual benefit claims upon completion of VA formal instruction and training.

 

4.   Where a client has filed, or wishes to file, a claim before the Department of Veterans Affairs for a greater compensable rating for a service connected disability, it shall be incumbent upon the DSO or appropriate Veterans of Foreign Wars representative, to advise the client that the Department of Veterans Affairs may decide not only to deny the increased rating, but, in rare circumstances, could also reduce the existing rating as well.

 

5.   It shall be incumbent upon the DSO, Assistant DSO or appropriate Veterans of Foreign Wars representative, to assist a client in all aspects of a claim before the Department of Veterans Affairs or before any other governmental department or agency where we have agreed to assist; and to prosecute such claim to the fullest extent and in a timely manner before such department or agency.

 

6.   It shall be incumbent upon the DSO, Assistant DSO or appropriate Veterans of Foreign Wars representative, to ensure in individual benefit claims before the Department of Veterans Affairs or before any other governmental department or agency, that each client is afforded all rights to due process under all laws and department or agency regulations.

 

7.   In counseling a client concerning a claim before the Department of Veterans Affairs or before any other governmental department or agency, the DSO, Assistant DSO, or appropriate Veterans of Foreign Wars representative, will ascertain all areas where evidence is needed, and assist the client in every reasonable way, to obtain such evidence.  Once a claim for VA entitlements has been formally filed, all evidence pertinent to that claim should be submitted.

 

8.    On each occasion that the DSO, Assistant DSO or appropriate Veterans of Foreign Wars representative submits evidence in support of a benefit claim to the appropriate VA regional office, such submission shall include a cover letter on Veterans of Foreign Wars (or where applicable, state or county government agency) letterhead, identifying the evidence attached and stating in specific and technical terms, the value of such evidence as it pertains to the claim.  Stereotyped or “canned” statements and form letters should be avoided.

 

9.   DSOs and Assistant DSOs shall counsel each client whose claim is denied, in whole or in part by the VA regional office, on the right to initially appeal such denial by filing a Notice of Disagreement.  If such appeal is initiated, the DSO or Assistant DSO shall again counsel the client on whether or not to further perfect the appeal (filing VA form 9, Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals).  A client should not necessarily be encouraged to appeal an adverse decision by the VA regional office, if in the best professional judgment of the DSO or Assistant DSO, there exists a statutory or regulatory bar to the benefit sought by the client.  This does not preclude responsibility to continue to provide representation, if the client still intends to initiate such appeal.

 

10.   Although, as part of due process, it is the responsibility of the Department of Veterans Affairs to inform a client of the right to a personal hearing(s) in connection with a benefit claim, the DSO or Assistant DSO will also apprise each client, whose claim is denied, of the right to this personal hearing with a VFW representative before Department of Veterans Affairs personnel at the VA regional office of jurisdiction and/or before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

 

11.   If a DSO formally requests Administrative Review of a VA regional office decision, all appropriate measures to protect the client's appellate rights must also be accomplished.  The National Veterans Service staff will also verify, upon receipt of a Department of Veterans Affairs claims folder, that the client's appellate rights, are protected.

 

12.   Where an internal administrative appeal of a benefit claim decision is initiated by an official of a VA regional office, the DSO at that station shall not join in the administrative appeal and shall so advise the client not to join in such appeal.  Should compelling circumstances exist that might suggest otherwise in a particular case, permission for the DSO to join in the appeal shall be obtained from the Director, National Veterans Service.

 

13.   A DSO is to use the utmost discretion in requesting, through the respective VA regional office, an independent medical expert (IME) opinion in support of a benefit claim and should not hesitate to seek the advice of the Assistant Director for Veterans Benefits Policy, National Veterans Service, as to whether such request is appropriate.  Where the DSO believes that a request is needed for an IME in support of an appeal under jurisdiction of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, he or she must seek the advice of the Assistant Director for Veterans Benefits Policy, before entering such request on any document submitted as part of the client's appeal.

 

14.   A DSO or Assistant DSO may sign a Notice of Disagreement or VA form 9 in a benefit claim before the Department of Veterans Affairs, but the utmost discretion is to be exercised.  Informal (verbal) approval should be solicited from the client, if at all possible.

 

15.   In completing VA form 646, Statement of Accredited Representative in Appealed Case, in a benefit claim before the Department of Veterans Affairs, the DSO or Assistant DSO shall:

A.  Identify the issue(s) on appeal meaning the issue(s) which was covered in the Statement of the Case or any subsequent Supplemental Statement of the Case, provided by the regional office in response to a Notice of Disagreement;

B.   Summarize the pertinent evidence, stating in specific and technical terms, the value of such evidence as it pertains to the issue(s);

C.  Cite the applicable governing criteria (law, regulation, court decisions, etc.) which the representative believes is applicable by the evidence contained in the claims folder;

D.  Identify any discrepancy, error, omission, etc., contained in the Statement of the Case or in any Supplemental Statement of the Case;

      E.   Where applicable, state or reiterate the client's desire for a personal hearing before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals;

F.   Where applicable, request again that the Department of Veterans Affairs conduct an examination if prior requests to the VA regional office were unsuccessful and in the opinion of the DSO or Assistant DSO, an examination is essential to the issue(s) on appeal (supporting rationale for such request must be provided); and,

G.  Request where applicable, and where outside the jurisdiction or authority of the DSO or Assistant DSO to accomplish, certain development felt necessary to the integrity of the claim, but only if the DSO or Assistant DSO has previously officially requested, without success, to have such development done by the VA regional office.

 

16.   Where evidence is received in a VFW Department Service Office in support of a claim on appeal and after the claims folder has been physically transferred to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, such evidence shall be submitted in accordance with the provisions of Title 38 Code of Federal Regulations §§ 20.800 and 20.1304 and in coordination with the Appeals Section Supervisor, National Veterans Service located at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

 

VFW REPRESENTATION (GENERAL)------U.S. COURT OF APPEALS FOR VETERANS CLAIMS

 

1.   The Director, National Veterans Service shall be responsible for deciding whether or not the VFW will represent any person before the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (hereinafter referred to as CAVC). This authority may be delegated as determined by the Director.

 

2.   Department Service Officers shall not commit the VFW to represent an individual before the CAVC without official notice from the Director, National Veterans Service.

 

3.   The VFW shall, if otherwise warranted, represent a person before the CAVC when:

A.     Such person has been officially represented by the VFW in the Department of Veterans Affairs administrative decision-making process, as long as such representation commenced no later than the initiation of the appeal (filing of Notice of Disagreement) and continued uninterrupted through a final appellate decision by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (including any reconsideration of such decision) and such representation has been for the exact or related issue(s) which forms the basis for the person's appeal to the CAVC;

B.   Such person has not appointed an attorney, agent, or another veterans service organization to represent his or her interest before the CAVC;

C.  Such person has filed a Notice of Disagreement on or after November 18, 1988 as long as such Notice of Disagreement is related to the issue(s) which forms the basis for the appeal to the CAVC; and,

D.  The Notice of Appeal to the CAVC of a final Board of Veterans’ Appeals decision is filed with the court within 120 days of the date of mailing of the related Board of Veterans’ Appeals decision.

4.   The VFW shall normally not represent a person before the CAVC where:

      A.  The appeal to the CAVC is without foundation or merit;

      B.   A statutory or regulatory bar exists to the benefit sought;

C.  The benefit sought has been denied on several or more occasions at the VA regional office level or at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals; or,

D.  Other circumstances exist which, in the judgment of the Director, National Veterans Service, would not make it in the best interest of the client or the Veterans of Foreign Wars to provide representation.

5.      If circumstances warrant, the Director, National Veterans Service may provide an exception to the guidelines in items (3) and (4) of this section.

 

6.      The VFW shall not represent a person in an appeal of a CAVC decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit or to the United States Supreme Court.

 

VFW REPRESENTATION (ADMINISTRATIVE)----U.S. COURT OF APPEALS FOR VETERANS CLAIMS

 

1.      Each VFW Department Service Office shall notify all State or County government service officers and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post, County Council, and District Service Officers in its jurisdiction, to promptly refer to the Department Service Officer all inquiries concerning appeals and other matters related to Veterans of Foreign Wars representation before the CAVC.

 

2.      Assistance by Department Service Officers in appeals or potential appeals to the CAVC, shall be limited to the following:

A.  Advising the person of the steps and required forms to be completed that are necessary in an appeal to the CAVC in obtaining possible representation by the VFW in such appeal;

B.   Determining whether the person has submitted, or plans to submit, a request to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals for reconsideration of the same BVA decision on which the appeal to the CAVC is to be based;

C.  Completing VFW form, Request for VFW Representation Before CAVC (Note: VA form 21-22, Appointment of Veterans Service Organization as Claimant's Representative, is not recognized by the CAVC for its purposes);

      D.  Obtaining a copy of the decision of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals on which the appeal to the CAVC is to be based;

      E.   Ensuring that the person has signed the CAVC consent form, Request for and Consent to Release of Information from Records in the Custody of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims;

F.   Obtaining any required CAVC filing fee from the person in the form of a check or money order in the appropriate amount made payable to the "CLERK, U.S. COURT OF APPEALS FOR VETERANS CLAIMS" or, if the person desires a waiver of such fee, assisting the person in completing the required CAVC form Motion and Affidavit to Appeal Without Payment of Cost, ensuring that the person signs the form and has it notarized; and,

G.  Submitting, in an expeditious manner, the signed originals of all forms and other documents referred to in items 2 (C) - (F) of this section, to the Assistant Director for Veterans Benefits Policy, National Veterans Service, retaining a copy of each for the office file.

 

3.      If the VFW elects to represent the individual before the CAVC, the CAVC Representative, National Veterans Service, shall:

A.     Complete and file with the CAVC:

(1)   Notice of Appeal form (original);

(2)   Notice of Appearance form (original);

(3)   Consent to Release of Information (copy);

(4)   Filing fee, or in lieu of such fees, file the motion and affidavit to appeal without payment of costs (original).

B.   Promptly provide to the Department of Veterans Affairs General Counsel, duplicate copies of the Notice of Appeal form, Appearance form, and the original of the Consent to Release of Information form;

C.  Notify the client and the DSO, soon as it is feasible, that the VFW has elected to represent the
      appeal before the CAVC.

 

VFW NATIONAL VETERANS SERVICE GRANTS

 

1.   VFW National Organization funds, requested by VFW Departments for the purpose of maintaining efficient and effective Department Service Offices, and upon recommendation by the National Veterans Service Committee through the Commander-in-Chief for consideration by the Budget and Finance Committee, will be approved by the National Council of Administration.

 

2.   National grants shall be used for direct support of the Department's Service Office, and shall not be used to replace existing Department funding provided for the office.

 

3.   Additional National funds, above the National funding in support of individual Department service work on August 31, 1996, are considered one-time grants and may be provided on an annual basis, for programs designed to enhance the delivery of service to veterans.  Funds cannot be used for salaries, bonuses, or salary-related compensation.  Recommended uses of these funds include, but are not limited to: equipment and supplies; furniture; training; reference material; computer software; and, outreach.

 

4.   Unless otherwise recommended by the National Veterans Service Committee, approved annual National grants will be in a lump sum to the Departments.

 

5.   The National Council of Administration, at the National Convention, will determine the monies available to be used by the National Organization for additional one-time grants in support of service work.

 

6.   National annual grants paid to VFW Departments shall be subject to review by the National Veterans Service Committee at the request of the Commander-in-Chief, the Adjutant General or the Quartermaster General.  The Commander-in-Chief will handle all matters involving a failure by a Department to provide an appropriate level of service to veterans, dependents or survivors related to a funding grant.

 

7.   In order to maintain National funding in effect on August 31, 1996, former Partnership Departments must maintain the service and staffing level in effect prior to September 1, 1996.  If a Department is in non-compliance with that criteria, it will have 60 days to come into compliance.  Otherwise, the Department will lose a percentage of National funding in an amount determined by the Commander-in-Chief in consultation with the Quartermaster General.

 

8.   After notification that funds are available, a Department wishing to request a National grant for the following year, shall provide to the National Veterans Service Committee, through the Director, National Veterans Service, the following:

A.  A request in writing utilizing an application form provided as part of the Director, NVS’s announcement that funds are available (the request will usually have a mid-July suspense).

  1. Vendor estimates, on vendor letterhead, stating the cost of the items to be purchased, must be attached to the application.

  1. A complete current Department budget, identifying all Department assets and liabilities, must be attached to the application.  (Additional financial information may be requested by the National Veterans Service Committee, when necessary.)

  1. A statement outlining the immediate past year’s expenditures for the veterans service fund (VSF) program must also be attached to the application form.

9.      When considering one-time grant requests, the National Veterans Service Committee may take into account other factors as deemed appropriate, including one or more of the following criteria:

A.     The financial situation of the Department, taking into account the amount of its own resources devoted to the veterans service program;

B.   The Department’s compliance with all guidelines in this Policy and Procedure; and,

C.  The effectiveness of the Department’s veterans service program as demonstrated by the quality of representation provided by its Department Service Office.

10.    Funds disbursed to the Departments must be expended within six months and copies of receipts for items purchased, as a result of National one-time grants, will be forwarded to the Director, National Veterans Service within 30 days of such purchases, unless otherwise approved by the National Veterans Service Committee.  When actual purchase price falls $200 or more below the estimated cost submitted with the application, the remaining funds must be returned to the National organization.  If a Department is not in compliance with these rules, they will not be eligible to receive funds the following year under this program.

 

11.    The following shall apply to Departments in receipt of National grants:

 

A.  Notify the National Veterans Service Committee, through the Director, National Veterans Service, of proposed hirings or dismissals of Department Service Officers, and the reasons therefore, prior to carrying out such acts.  Unless the Committee is notified in advance, the grant is subject to revocation by the Commander-in-Chief;

B.   A National grant or other financial assistance may be suspended to any Department which refuses to accept State government financial assistance for service work such as direct grants, payment of salaries, etc., except under conditions or restrictions considered unacceptable by the Department and the National Veterans Service Committee;

C.  A National grant or other financial assistance may be suspended to any Department whose Department Service Officer does not regularly attend designated National Veterans Service training conferences, including all scheduled classes and meetings; and,

D.  A Department will not be provided a National grant or other financial assistance unless the Department Service Office is staffed by not less than one full-time VFW accredited representative with full-time clerical support.

  

NOTE:   ANY MATTER NOT SPECIFICALLY COVERED IN THIS POLICY AND PROCEDURE SHALL BE REFERRED TO THE NATIONAL VETERANS SERVICE COMMITTEE THROUGH THE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL VETERANS SERVICE, FOR RESOLUTION.

 

CODE OF Conduct fOR VFW Representatives

 

1.      Do not knowingly present a fraudulent claim or submit false information in connection with a claim before any government agency.

 

2.      Do not engage in any unlawful, unprofessional or unethical practice such as deceiving or misleading a client.

 

3.      Remember that you are fully responsible for compliance with all laws and regulations of each government department or agency governing confidentiality of information and release of information from official records.  Information should be released only if authorized by the client, and only to the extent authorized.

 

4.      As a VFW accredited representative, under no circumstances, should you serve as guardian, committee or fiduciary by any other designation, of veterans or other persons receiving benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

 

5.      Representation by the VFW is gratuitous and under no circumstances should you demand, request or receive remuneration in cash or in any other form, from persons to whom representation or other assistance is provided.

 

6.      VFW representatives will refrain from the use of racial, religious, age-related, sexual or ethnic epithets, innuendoes, slurs or jokes in the work place.

 

7.      In all dealings with members of the opposite sex, VFW representatives must conduct themselves in a totally professional manner and refrain from sexual advances, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, or requests for sexual favors.

 

ADOPTION

 

The Policy and Procedure contained herein was adopted by the National Veterans Service Committee on March 7, 2004, and supersedes all previous editions and amendments.  Future amendments as approved by the Committee will be issued as replacement pages, supplemental pages, or by complete revision in relation to the extent of the amendments.

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