Alpha Veterans Disability Advocate Manager - Allen Gumpenberger

It’s not uncommon for some confusion to set in when a major procedural change occurs, but, what if it gets out of hand?  It may already be happening at some of the VA’s regional offices (ROs) concerning the interpretation of the July 13 amendment that eases regulations for proving PTSD claims.

The new law states that medical determination of a PTSD claim must be made by a VA or VA-contracted psychologist or psychiatrist. However, I have heard of one RO manager who has interpreted this requirement to mean that ROs should not accept a medical recommendation made by a local Vet Center staff psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker because they do not have the experience or qualifications necessary to review claims.

At Alpha, we take exception to this particular RO manager’s interpretation of the new law.

There are many Vet Centers who have qualified psychologists or psychiatrists on board to properly review PTSD claims. The manager of this particular RO is assuming that all psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers who work at local Vet Centers lack the necessary training and experience to make medical decisions and, therefore, has declared that they will not accept confirmatory opinions made by them.

I know of other ROs that are reaching their own conclusions about the “38 Code of Federal Regulations Part 3” amendment.  The VA needs to make sure that all ROs understand the new procedural rules. This is why I have contacted the VA Office of General Counsel to raise our concerns and have suggested that they create a common practice all ROs must follow.

If the VA does not step in to clear the confusion at regional offices, I foresee an unfortunate rise in the number of PTSD claims forced into appeals.  For the sake of our disabled veterans suffering from PTSD, the confusion must stop before it goes too far.

Note: All representation coordinated by Alpha is provided by our employees, the Advocates, who are accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). No private organization that trains and employs accredited agents has been legally recognized by the VA for the purposes of preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims. This work must be done by the Advocates themselves and not organizations.