VA Resumes In-Person Disability Exams in 24 States -- Including Montana

Posted on 07/09/20 by Aaron Kassraie

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) says it is resuming in-person disability exams in two dozen states and clinical in-person appointments at 100 hospitals that have cleared the way for them. The VA previously paused more than 230,000 exam requests to deter the spread of COVID-19.

In-person disability exams are being offered where health care services have also been reintroduced in the following states: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Veterans outside these areas will continue to be treated through telehealth appointments or through a clinical evidence process that reviews existing medical records to complete a claim. Veterans who live near a resumed service area but who do not feel comfortable going in person may opt to schedule their exams for a later date without impact on their disability claim.

"The locations that were selected to resume in-person examinations were chosen because they align with VA, federal, state and local guidance for resuming services,” said VA spokesperson Randy Noller.

The VA's contract vendors must follow federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local guidelines. Vendors will directly contact veterans if an exam needs to be scheduled.

"As VA resumes in-person exams in areas where it is safe to do so, it will instruct the exam vendors to complete exams according to VA's priority processing rules, scheduling the oldest exam requests first, including any exams that were postponed during the national emergency,” Noller said.

Additionally, the VA announced that in mid-June it reinstated clinical in-person services at 100 hospitals; they had been on hold or reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its focus is providing in-person care to those who have the greatest clinical need, outside of urgent and emergency care services.

Telehealth, including phone consultation and wellness checks, remains an option for non-emergent care, which has seen over a 1,000 percent increase in visits. To find out which VA medical centers are providing in-person services, contact your local facility directly.

Disability exams, also called compensation and pension exams, are usually required after a veteran files a claim to verify medical conditions and set a service member's disability rating.

Any veteran whose claim was denied because the coronavirus outbreak forced the cancellation of an exam should call the Veterans Benefits Administration, part of the VA, toll-free at 800-827-1000.

Editor’s note: This story, originally published June 10, 2020, has been updated to reflect the resumption of some clinical in-person appointments.

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This story is provided by AARP Montana. Visit the AARP Montana page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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