Though veterans don’t have to operate alone, the ability to prove eligibility for a benefit is the individual’s responsibility by law. A law was passed in 2000 by Capitol Hill called the duty to assist that made the VA a compulsory assistant to veterans looking to gather documentation in support of their eligibility for benefits. Under duty to assist the VA is obligated in simple terminology to inform inquirers precisely what documentation is needed to support a claim.
Furthermore, the VA is expected to make an effort in helping veterans require necessary documents, depending on the sources of the records.
- Federal Records: Only after the VA has made a reasonable effort in confirming a needed document doesn’t exist, or that continued effort is redundant can they desist in helping a veteran obtain a particular document. Additionally, if the VA does come to such a conclusion, they are required by law to inform the individual and provide alternative suggestions.
- Nonfederal records: Private Doctor Records or sworn witness statements are also under the VA’s jurisdiction for making a reasonable effort to provide. In fact, the VA must send the request themselves. If the documents are not obtained after two months, the VA is required to continue making requests unless there is evidence to suggest the records do not exist or are unavailable.
Nonfederal records, particularly medical records, are of high importance and every attempt to obtain them yourself should be made in addition to the VA. Medical facilities are known to ignore such requests unless issued directly from the patient, not to mention that to obtain certain records a fee is required that the VA is not permitted to pay.