There might come a time in a veteran’s life where handling all of the benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs becomes a challenge, whether it is due to a disability, or due to old age. In cases where a veteran cannot manage their own benefits, the VA provides a benefit to help manage the others. The purpose of the VA Fiduciary Program is to protect veterans and beneficiaries who are unable to manage their VA benefits through the appointment and oversight of a fiduciary. A fiduciary is a trustee, someone who will manage the benefits in the veteran’s behalf.
If a veteran has been determined unable to manage their VA benefits, the VA will conduct a field examination to appoint a fiduciary to assist them. The VA field examination will be scheduled for the purpose of appointing a fiduciary to assist the veteran in managing their benefits. During the field examination, the veteran should have certain information available for review by the examiner. The veteran should provide photo identification, the source and amount of all monthly bills and recurring expenses, any income they receive, a list of all current medications, and the name, phone number, and address for their primary doctor and next of kin. The veteran should also provide a list of all assets, to include bank accounts, owned property, stocks, bonds, life insurance, burial plans, etc.
After the examination has taken place, and the VA knows all that needs to be taken care of, the selection process for a fiduciary begins. The veteran can choose or recommend someone to serve as their fiduciary. During the selection process, the VA will first seek to qualify the individual the veteran chooses to serve. The fiduciary selection is based on an assessment of the qualifications of the proposed fiduciary. Some of the individuals that a veteran might consider when seeking a fiduciary could be a spouse or family member, a court-appointed fiduciary, another interested part, or a professional fiduciary. An assessment of the qualifications of a proposed fiduciary includes, but is not limited to the willingness to serve and abide by all agreements, an interview with a VA representative, credit report review, an inquiry into the criminal background, and interviews with character witnesses.
The determination that the veteran is unable to manage their VA benefits does not affect their veterans non-VA finances, or their right to vote or contract. They have the right to appeal the VA’s decision finding that they are unable to manage their VA benefits. The veteran also has the right to appeal VA’s selection of the fiduciary. If the veteran disagrees with the VA on either of these matters, they may appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals by telling the VA they disagree with the decision that was made and want the Board to review it, or the veteran can give the VA evidence that they do not already have that may lead them to change their decision.
The veteran may also request to have their ability to manage their VA benefits be reevaluated, or to have a new fiduciary appointed, at any time. If the veteran wishes a reevaluation, they must submit a request in writing with any supporting medical evidence to the Regional Office of jurisdiction.
To begin an appeal of the VA’s decision, the veteran must write a letter to the VA telling them that he or she disagrees with the decision made, and wishes to appeal. This letter is called the “Notice of Disagreement.” The veteran may also submit any additional evidence in support of their appeal.
When the letter is received, the veterans case will be reviewed, and any additional evidence provided will be considered. If the VA changes their decision, they will notify the veteran in writing. If the VA makes no changes in their decision, they will send the veteran a Statement of the Case, which describes the facts, laws, regulations, and reasons the VA used to make their decision. The VA will also send the veteran a VA Form 9, “Appeal to Board of Veterans’ Appeals,” which must be completed and returned to the VA by the veteran if they still choose to continue their appeal. Once the Statement is sent to the veteran, they have one year to submit the Form and continue the appeal. After one year, the VA’s decision is final. If the veteran continues the appeal, it will be brought before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, where you will have the right to a hearing. After that, whatever decision the Board makes will be final.