This week were contacted by a veteran who had filed his own claim for malpractice. Right off the bat, I will say – as we have often said before – we do not recommend trying to go through this process without out a lawyer. As one might expect, the VA’s regional office denied the claim.
When a claim is denied, that denial triggers a six-month period for either seeking reconsideration or filing suit. For this reason, the VA is required to send written notice of its denial. In this case, the VA did so on May 24, 2017. The trouble is that it was sent to the wrong address. To its credit, the VA realized its mistake and resent the letter a month later on June 23. 2017. To its discredit the VA’s second letter expressly stated that the time for filing suit or seeking reconsideration ran from the incorrectly sent first letter.
Roughly translated, the above scenario means that the VA’s own rules only bind the veteran, not the agency. In this instance, the one-month delay is probably not hugely detrimental to the veteran, but what if the delay was four or five months, or even past the six-month deadline? I suspect the VA would take the same “not our problem” approach.
I wish that I could say this sort of conduct surprised me. It does not. In various forms we see this sort of thing all the time. It’s hard enough to prosecute claims on behalf of veterans even when the rules are applied as they should be. It’s a lot harder when the agency charged with serving veterans is held to a lesser standard than the veterans themselves. This is wrong.