SGT. SHAFT: Veteran seeks way to find his service number for loan application

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“VA, veterans representatives and veterans all have a stake in the claims process,” Mr. Honeycutt said. “We continue to operate under the mantra, ‘Grant if you can; deny if you must,’ but more often than not, the challenge to obtain certain evidence that allows us to grant the claim. That is why partnering with the VSO’s to increase the number of fully developed claims that are submitted is so important. “

Mr. Honeycutt said FDC involves veterans in the process and allows them more control over their claims. Their reward is a claim that is finished in substantially less time.

“DAV has National Service Officers located in every regional office,” said Jim Marszalak, assistant service director with Disabled American Veterans. “Our NSOs in the Chicago Regional Office started using the FDC program and have seen a dramatic amount of time shaved off waiting times. It has also minimized the amount of appeals we file on our veterans’ behalf.”

Using VA Form 21-526EZ, veterans can file FDC for disability compensation. VA Form 21-527EZ allows veterans to file for a non-service connected pension. The FDC forms — found at http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-526EZ-ARE.pdf and http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-527EZ-ARE.pdf — include information on what evidence is VA’s responsibility and what evidence is the veteran’s responsibility.

For more information on the Fully Developed Claims program, visit http://benefits.va.gov/transformation/fastclaims/.

• The Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced that it is moving forward with a plan to provide burial services for veterans in rural areas where there are no available VA national cemeteries, state veterans cemeteries or tribal veterans cemeteries.

“VA is committed to improving service to veterans in rural areas,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “Through an innovative partnership with existing cemeteries, we will be able to ensure burial for veterans in more locations that meet the high standards of national shrines.”

Under the Rural Initiative plan, VA will build small National Veterans Burial Grounds within existing public or private cemeteries in rural areas where the unserved veteran population is 25,000 or less within a 75-mile radius.

VA plans to open eight National Veterans Burial Grounds that will serve veterans in the areas of Fargo, N.D.; Rhinelander, Wis.; Cheyenne, Wyo.; Laurel, Mont.; Idaho Falls, Idaho; Cedar City, Utah; Calais, Maine; and Elko, Nev.

VA officials will announce further details about the eight new burial grounds as information becomes available. This new initiative will make VA burial options available to more than 136,000 veterans and their eligible dependents.

Veterans with a discharge issued under conditions other than dishonorable, their spouses and eligible dependent children can be buried in a VA national cemetery.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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