Veterans Affairs further streamlines benefits application process

The department no longer will require a signed paper copy of an application along with electronic version.

The Veterans Affairs Department announced on Wednesday that its online benefits application process now is completely paperless. VA no longer will require veterans to submit a signed paper copy of a benefit application in addition to the electronic version.

Comment on this article in The Forum.The department will process applications received through its Veterans Online Applications Web site without a signature as the electronic application will be sufficient authentication. Veterans, their survivors and beneficiaries will be able to file electronic applications for disability compensation, pension, education, and vocational rehabilitation and employment benefits without submitting a signed paper copy, according to VA.

"We applaud the Department of Veterans Affairs for making the online application process simpler and more users friendly," said Gerald Manar, deputy director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars' National Veterans Service. He added the paper-copy signature requirement along with the electronic application often resulted in "substantial delays in processing claims." A VA spokeswoman did not respond in time for publication to a question on how long the department has operated its online application system.

In addition to expediting the claims process, Manar said eliminating the paper signature would lower the risk of denying a claimant simply for failing to submit a piece of paper. "This is a positive step," he said. "We hope that VA makes the most of this new procedure."

VA said its online application system already reduces the number of incomplete applications it receives, which decreases the need for additional work by claims processors.

VA provides compensation and pension benefits to more than 3.7 million veterans and beneficiaries, and approximately 523,000 students receive education benefits. About 90,000 disabled veterans participate in the department's vocational rehabilitation and employment program.