The Department of Veterans Affairs today welcomed William & Mary Law School's Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic to the Fully Developed Claims (FDC) Community of Practice. The Puller Clinic is the first law school clinic in the nation to join the FDC Community of Practice.
As a result of this new partnership, William & Mary faculty from the Puller clinic will participate in an FDC workshop today at the Roanoke regional office.
The FDC Community of Practice was established in May to promote the submission of FDCs and speed the processing of Veterans' disability compensation claims by providing all available evidence needed by VA to reach a disability rating decision. The Puller Clinic joins Veterans Service Organizations, the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans, and the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, who are current members of the Community.
"We're delighted to have the Puller Clinic join the effort to increase the number of Veterans filing fully developed claims," said Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey. "It's indicative of the expanding national partnership assisting in the timely delivery of Veterans benefits."
"This is a win-win-win: Veterans receive benefits to which they are entitled, the VA receives more claims that are accurate and complete, and William & Mary law students develop new skills as well as an appreciation for pro bono service," said Sen. Mark R. Warner. "I could not be more pleased with this significant announcement from the VA."
Claims are considered "fully developed" when Veterans submit all available supporting evidence, such as private treatment records, at the time they first file a formal claim -- and certify they have no additional evidence to submit. VA can typically complete FDCs in half the time of traditionally filed claims.
"I congratulate the Puller Clinic on their joining the FDC Community of Practice," said Will A. Gunn, VA's general counsel. "I'm optimistic that their example will encourage other institutions of higher learning to do the same."
VA is currently conducting workshops at its regional offices around the country to help Veteran advocates learn the importance of FDCs and how to help Veterans prepare them.
"The Puller Clinic's approach to claims provides a national model for how law schools across the country can help solve the nation's backlog of Veterans' benefits claims," said William & Mary President Taylor Reveley. "Today's announcement by the Department of Veterans Affairs reflects the tireless leadership of Senator Mark Warner, the great work being done at William & Mary Law School, and the determination of the VA to work collaboratively to address the needs of our Veterans."
VA also recently announced that Veterans filing their first-ever compensation claims as FDCs may be entitled to up to one year of retroactive disability benefits. The retroactive benefits, which are in effect Aug. 6, 2013, through Aug. 5, 2015, are a result of a comprehensive legislative package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last year.
Veterans can learn more about disability benefits on the joint Department of Defense-VA web portal eBenefits at www.ebenefits.va.gov.