UNCLASSIFIED (U)

7 FAM 540 

DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

(CT:CON-899;   09-24-2020)
(Office of Origin:  CA/OCS)

7 FAM 541  INTRODUCTION

7 FAM 541.1  Summary

(CT:CON-899;   09-24-2020)

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is responsible for providing federal benefits to veterans and their dependents through operating programs for health care, financial assistance, education, rehabilitation, insurance, and burial at national cemeteries.  The Regional Federal Benefits Officer (RFBO) acts as the VA’s agent abroad, assisting veterans and beneficiaries with both the origination of new benefits claims and the administration of existing ones.

7 FAM 541.2  Authorities

(CT:CON-618;   01-07-2016)

a. Authority for consular assistance to the U.S. VA and veterans abroad is found in 22 U.S.C. 3904 (3) -Functions of Service (Foreign Service).

22 U.S.C. 3904 (3) provides

Members of the Service shall, under the direction of the Secretary—

(3)  Perform functions on behalf of any agency or other Government establishment (including any establishment in the legislative or judicial branch) requiring their services.

b. Authority for veterans’ services is found in:

(1)  38 U.S.C. – Veterans Benefits; and

(2)  38 CFR Parts 0-18 Department of Veterans Affairs.

7 FAM 541.3  Eligibility for Veterans Benefits

(CT:CON-618;   01-07-2016)

Generally, 24 continuous months of active military service is required to establish eligibility for most U.S. VA benefits.  However, disabilities that result from a personal injury or disease that was incurred or aggravated during military service also establish eligibility, regardless of the amount of time served.  Since eligibility varies by VA program, the best way to review specific criteria is to visit the VA Web site.  You may also consult the “Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependents” booklet available in both English and Spanish, on the VA Web site and clicking on Contact VA.  In addition, veterans may contact the VA on the web or at 1-800-827-1000 (Stateside only for telephone number).

7 FAM 541.4  Obtaining VA Forms

(CT:CON-618;   01-07-2016)

VA forms are available on the VA forms Web site.

7 FAM 541.5  Veterans Can file for benefits online

(CT:CON-618;   01-07-2016)

Veterans may complete applications for certain benefits online through VA’s eBenefits Web site.

7 FAM 541.6  Role of the Consular Officer

(CT:CON-899;   09-24-2020)

a. Federal law establishes entitlement to federal benefits.  Each federal benefits-paying agency establishes policies and procedures under which the laws are administered.  When policies and procedures are applied outside the United States, assistance from U.S. embassies and consulates is required.

b. Posts are expected to provide a broad range of services, e.g., advising applicants about benefits, providing the necessary forms, assisting them in completing the forms, arranging medical appointments, developing claims, providing referrals and following up with VA when necessary.  Seek advice from the regional VA office when the answer is not clear.  RFBO is also an alternative avenue for consultation in resolving policy and procedural issues.

7 FAM 541.7  Role of CA/OCS/MSU

(CT:CON-899;   09-24-2020)

a. The Program Management Office in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Directorate of Overseas Citizens Services (CA/OCS/MSU) is the Department’s liaison with benefits-paying agencies, consular posts abroad and Congress.  CA/OCS/MSU provides guidance, disseminates information and implements new programs and procedures of the other agencies.

b. In essence, CA/OCS works with Federal benefits-paying agencies on Federal Benefits Programs abroad to ensure efficient and fraud-free payment of benefits as well as the provision of services.  CA/OCS/MSU’s goal is to ensure that services provided by the State Department for other benefits-paying agencies are administered in an efficient and effective way delivering a high-quality service.

c.  CA/OCS/MSU has a collective email address FedBen@state.gov, where Regional Federal Benefits Officers (RFBOs) may send e-mails on policy and complicated issues which arise to them from posts through the Federal Benefits Units (FBUs) in their regions.

7 FAM 541.8  Limitations on Consular Officers Regarding Veterans Affairs Work and Disclosure of Information (Privacy Act)

(CT:CON-618;   01-07-2016)

a. Do not disclose information concerning a claimant of veteran’s benefits and programs that can be retrieved by personal identifiers contained in a system of records, except:

(1)  As expressly authorized by VA;

(2)  After written authorization by the individual who is the subject of the record, or,

(3)  In accordance with the 12 exceptions to the conditions of disclosure in the Privacy Act, as amended (5 U.S.C. 552a(b)(1)–(12) or the Department's System of Record Notices (SORNs).  7 FAM 060 provides detailed guidance about the Privacy Act.

b. Any unauthorized disclosure is subject to criminal penalties pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 552a.  (See 7 FAM 069.2.)

7 FAM 542  VA COMPENSATION AND PENSION BENEFITS VETERANS ABROAD MAY NEED HELP PURSUING

(CT:CON-899;   09-24-2020)

The following are brief definitions and descriptions of the major benefits available through the Department of Veterans Affairs to eligible veterans and their dependents who are living abroad.  For more detailed information and eligibility criteria, see the VA Foreign Services Internet page.

Burial Benefits:  Eligible veterans may be entitled to a burial allowance, a burial flag, a headstone, niche, or grave marker, a Presidential Memorial Certificate, and/or burial in a state or national cemetery.  For more information see the VA Burial and Memorial Benefits Internet page.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC):  A monthly monetary benefit payable to surviving spouses, certain children, and low-income parents of service members or veterans who died from:

      A disease or injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty while on active duty or active duty for training;

      An injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty while on inactive duty training;

      A service-connected disability or a condition directly related to a service-connected disability;

      DIC may also be paid to survivors of veterans (surviving spouse and children only) who were totally disabled from service-connected conditions at the time of death, even though their service-connected disabilities did not cause their deaths.

The survivor qualifies if the veteran was:

Continuously rated totally disabled for a period of 10 years immediately preceding death;

Continuously rated totally disabled from the date of military discharge and for at least five years immediately preceding death; or

A former POW who died after September 30, 1999, and who was continuously rated totally disabled for a period of at least one year immediately preceding death.

Disability Compensation:  Disability compensation is a monthly monetary benefit payable to veterans disabled by injury or disease that was incurred or aggravated during active military service.

Education:  Monetary assistance may be available to veterans, surviving spouses and dependent children through the Post 9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill (Active Duty), Montgomery GI Bill (Selected Reserve), Veterans’ Educational Assistance Program (VEAP), Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP), and Survivors’ Dependents’ Education Assistance (DEA) programs.  Outside of the United States, the training at the foreign school must be at an institution of higher learning leading to a standard college degree, or the equivalent and the program of education at the foreign institution must have been approved by VA. For more information visit the VA Educational Benefits website.

Insurance:  Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) is open to active-duty and reserve members of the uniformed services.  If a veteran is totally disabled at the time of discharge (unable to work), he or she may be eligible to retain free SGLI coverage for up to two years from their date of separation.  The veteran must have a disability that prevents them from being employed.  The Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) allows veterans to convert their SGLI coverage to renewable group life insurance when they leave the service.  Veterans who were separated from military service on or after November 1, 2012, may now apply to convert SGLI to VGLI within 1 year and 240 days from separation.  Evidence of good health is not required for those who apply within 240 days of separation.  Service Disabled Insurance is available to veterans with service-connected disabilities.  Veterans Mortgage Life Insurance is not available to individuals living abroad.  For more information on insurance plans, visit VA Insurance Web site or call 1-800-669-8477 within the United States.

Pension:  Pension is a needs-based benefit program for wartime Veterans who are age 65 or older or have a permanent and total non-service connected disability, and who have limited income and net worth.  For more information, review VA Fact Sheets Compensation and Pension Benefits and Veterans Benefits Administration on the VA website.

RFBO:  Regional Federal Benefits Officer.  For a current listing of the RFBOs go to the CA web Intranet page and click on Citizens Services at the top left corner, scroll down to Non-Emergency Services and click on Federal Benefits.

Survivors' PensionThe survivors Pension benefit is a tax-free monetary benefit payable to a low-income, un-remarried surviving spouse and/or unmarried child(ren) of a deceased Veteran with at least one day of wartime service and a minimum of 90 days active military service.  If a deceased veteran entered active duty after September 7, 1980, he or she must have served at least 24 months of active duty service. If the total length of service is less than 24 months, the Veteran must have completed their entire tour of active duty.  While an un-remarried spouse is eligible at any age, a child of a deceased wartime Veteran must be under 18, OR under age 23 if attending VA -approved school, OR permanently incapable of self-support due to a disability before age 18.

Veteran:  A veteran, for VA benefits purposes, is anyone who has served on active duty, was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.  Reservists may also qualify for benefits after fulfillment of certain duty.

Veterans Readiness and Employment:  An eligible service-connected disabled veteran may receive employment assistance, self-employment assistance, training in a rehabilitation facility, and college and other training needed to overcome an employment handicap caused by his/her service-connected disability.  While in training, eligible veterans may receive subsistence allowances in addition to their disability compensation or retirement pay.  The veteran must be training in a program approved by a Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist.  For more information see the Veterans Readiness and Employment Benefits website.

7 FAM 543  HOW THE CLAIMANT APPLIES FOR BENEFITS AND WHAT IS THE CONSULAR ROLE IN VERIFICATION OF INFORMATION?

(CT:CON-618;   01-07-2016)

Developing a claim is a critical responsibility beginning with the application.  The U.S. VA regional benefit offices of jurisdiction process benefit claims including applications, case inquiries, changes of address, etc. for veterans and dependents residing in foreign countries.  It may take 9-12 months to process some complex cases.

7 FAM 543.1  Claimants Filing for Benefits

(CT:CON-899;   09-24-2020)

a. Claimants filing for disability compensation or pension must submit their claims to the appropriate VA regional office:

(1)  A completed Form VA-21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits;

(2)  Supporting documents of the disability (treatment and medical records); and

(3)  If proof of service is not available the claimant must provide a military service number, branch and dates of service.

b. Claimants filing for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), Survivors Pension and/or Accrued Benefits should be submitted to the Philadelphia Pension Maintenance Center.

(1)  Form VA-21P-534EZ, Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, Death Pension and/or Accrued Benefits by a Surviving Spouse or Child (Including Death Compensation if Applicable). (Part VII through IX need not be completed, unless the claimant also wishes consideration of pension entitlement); and

(2)  Form VA-21P-535, Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation by Parent(s) (Including Accrued Benefits and Death Compensation when applicable), is to be used by parents.  The form should be completed in its entirety.  The following information must be included on both Form VA 21P-534EZ and Form VA-21-535:

(a)  A copy of the veteran’s death certificate (must show cause of death);

(b)  Copies of marriage/birth certificates;

(c)  Divorce decrees, if applicable;

(d)  A military discharge certificate; and

(e)  Passport, national photo identity card (foreign nationals) as proof of identity.

c.  Intent to File (ITF) is a process that is designed to allow veterans or surviving spouses additional time to gather the information needed to file a claim, while protecting the date of claim.  The following claim types can be applied using ITF:

(1)  Compensation;

(2)  Pension; and

(3) Survivors Pension and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).

d. A veteran or surviving spouse can submit an ITF any of the following ways:

(1)  By submitting a completed Form VA-21-966, Intent to File a Claim for Compensation and/or Pension, or Survivors Pension and/or DIC;

(2)  By calling the National Call Center (NCC) at 1-800-827-1000 or the National Pension Call Center (NPCC) at 1-877-294-6380 and notifying a Public Contact Representative (PCR) of his or her ITF a claim for compensation, pension, or survivors benefits; and

(3)  By initiating an application for benefits via eBenefits.

NOTE:  The VA forms mentioned above can be obtained on the VA forms Web page.

7 FAM 543.2  Role of the Consular Officer

(CT:CON-899;   09-24-2020)

a. U.S. Foreign Service officers are authorized to act on behalf of the VA; therefore, claims filed in a foreign country will be considered as filed in the Department of Veterans Affairs as of the date of receipt by the Department representative.

b. You should:

(1)  Verify identity of the claimant;

(2)  Offer advice on filling out applications;

(3)  Encourage applicants to file their claims online through www.va.gov or submit the application which is available on the VA forms website;

(4)  Review applications for completeness and accuracy.  Some veterans may need special assistance in completing the forms.  (If fraud is suspected, see “Management of a Federal Benefits Unit” section for guidance.  (See 7 FAM 590);

(5)  Mail completed applications if requested; and

(6)  Make appropriate inquiries or referrals on the beneficiary’s behalf.

7 FAM 543.3  Date-stamping Documents

(CT:CON-618;   01-07-2016)

a. The Department of VA considers most claims effective upon receipt by either the VA or its agents (Department of State representatives).

The effective date of a claim is a critical issue.  Because the effective date of claim may dictate the effective date of payment, you must be certain that advice, counseling, claims development and submissions are prompt and accurate.

b. Consular officers should:

(1)  Date-stamp documents the day received at post;

(2)  Use space provided (usually upper right hand corner) or stamp in a prominent area;

(3)  Initial and place your title under the date stamp; and

(4)  Verify that no alterations have been made to the supporting documents.

c.  As agents of VA, consular personnel may certify the documents.  The following statement must be used when certifying documents:

The original document (or record) of which this is a copy (or, from which this excerpt was taken) appears to be genuine and unaltered and to have been made at the time purported.  This document consists of (number of pages) pages.

Signature of Consular Officer

Typed Name of Consular Officer

Title of Consular Officer

Name of Post

City, Country

Date

Seal

d. To preserve originals (birth certificates, marriage certificates and discharge papers) copies may be date-stamped.  Return originals to the owner.

Send completed applications to VA on the date they are stamped so VA can begin processing.

7 FAM 543.4  Where Veterans Should Send Claims, Applications, Inquiries, Address Changes, etc. When Abroad

(CT:CON-899;   09-24-2020)

a. Claims should be sent to the addresses noted below.  Also see claims section under specific programs.

(1)  For correspondence related to compensation claims for veterans residing in foreign countries should send to:

Department of Veterans Affairs
Evidence Intake Center
P.O. Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444

Or fax your information to:
Toll Free: 1-844-531-7818

(2)  Claims received from Veterans who reside in the Philippines are processed by Manila Regional Office:

Philippines
(Benefits)
1131 Roxas Boulevard
Pasay City, Philippines

(3)  For correspondence related to veterans pension and survivor benefit claims if they reside in a foreign country, send to:

For claimants residing in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America:

 

Department of Veteran Affairs
Claims Intake Center
Attention: St. Paul Pension Center
P.O. Box 5365
Janesville, WI 53547-5365

 

For claimants residing in all other countries:

 

Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
Attention: Philadelphia Pension Center
P.O. Box 5206
Janesville, WI 53547-5206

(4)  Inquiries regarding headstones/markers, and Presidential Memorial Certificates should be forwarded to the following address:

Headstones/Markers, Presidential Memorial Certificate (All countries) Department of Veterans Affairs

National Cemetery Administration

Memorial Programs Service (41B1)

Attention: Gina White

5109 Russell Road

Quantico, VA 22312

 

Gina White

Gina.white@va.gov

(202) 501-3028 (Voice)

(202) 501-3109 (Fax)

(5)  Inquiries regarding insurance should be forwarded to the following address:

Insurance (All countries)
VA Regional Office and Insurance Center
P.O. Box 13399
5000 Wissahickon Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19101
FAX: 215-381-3502
Email: vainsurance@va.gov

(6)  Inquiries about education benefits should be forwarded to the following address:

Educational Assistance (All countries)
VA Regional Office

130 South Elmwood Avenue

Buffalo, NY  14202-2466

FAX: 716-857-3192
Email:  vavbabuf/esu/foreignschools@vba.va.gov

b. When Submitting an Inquiry to VA:

(1)  Provide the veteran’s full name and claim number or SSN on all inquiries (including those from a widow/widower or children);

(2)  State the question/situation clearly; and

(3)  Include all necessary dates in this format: (month/day/year, e.g., May 24, 1941).

Note:  Claimants may submit inquiries directly to VA by going to VA’s Inquiry Routing and Information System (IRIS).  Normally a response should be received within five working days.  Do not give claimants VA E-mail addresses reserved for inquiries from Posts.

7 FAM 544  DISABILITY EVALUATION EXAMINATIONS

7 FAM 544.1  How to Request an Examination

(CT:CON-618;   01-07-2016)

a. The U.S. VA requires examinations to establish the presence or absence of a claimed disease, injury, or residual condition, and, if existent, the extent of disability.

b. The VA regional office of jurisdiction will notify the claimant directly that a request for examination has been sent to the Foreign Service post of jurisdiction.  The request will include examination protocols which the examining physician should follow.

7 FAM 544.2  Role of the Consular Officer

(CT:CON-899;   09-24-2020)

a. The VA claims processing office will forward Form VA-21-2507, Request for Physical Examination, to post, and the request will specify the type of examination(s) required noting the condition(s) claimed by the beneficiary.  Evaluation guidelines will be provided for all examinations.

b. The consular officer should assist the veteran by actually scheduling the examinations with a physician(s) or medical facility using the list of doctors and hospitals produced and maintained by post. For more information on the list of doctors see 7 FAM 337Do not give the form to the veteran to schedule his/her own appointment.

c.  The Foreign Medical Program (FMP) is an organization within VA that handles healthcare for Veterans who live abroadPart "e" of this section provides more information about the reimbursement process.

NOTE:  Effective February 8, 2016, the Foreign Medical Program (FMP) will no longer provide reimbursement for travel expenses associated with VA compensation, pension, and appeals examination(s).  Travel reimbursement is available only for examination(s) completed prior to February 8, 2016.  This change does not affect reimbursement for treatment for service connected conditions.

d. The consular officer should advise the health care provider to let the post know if payment has not been received within 90 days after the examination report has been returned to Post.  In such a case, you should advise the VA’s Foreign Medical Program of the delinquency.

e. The consular officer should forward examination reports and invoices to VA through the post scheduling the examination as specifically instructed on the transmittal letter sent with the Request for Examination.  Examination reports and a copy of Form VA-21-2507 should be returned to the Pittsburgh Regional Office.  The physician’s invoice and a copy of Form VA-21-2507 should be sent to the Foreign Medical Program Office in Denver, Colorado.  Advise the physician that the report and invoice should be made on the physician’s letterhead and address all items included in the examination protocol(s).  Advise the physician that reports should be completed within 30 days of the examination.

f.  The process of sanitizing the mail in the Department of State destroys information which is printed on any type of heat sensitive paper, i.e., thermal paper; this includes medical reports, compensation and pension medical examinations, EKG printouts and any other reports which are printed on heat sensitive paper.  Therefore, you should photocopy material printed on heat sensitive paper and forward the photocopy with the examination to the VA Regional Office of jurisdiction.  The photocopies should be certified.  The original documents should be retained for six months in the event VA needs to retrieve them.

g. What if the claimant fails to report for examination?  You should return Form VA-21-2507 and notify the Pittsburgh Regional Office for cancellation if the claimant does not report for the examination as scheduled and does not contact Post to reschedule within one week after missing the appointment.

h. What if the veteran asks to reschedule an examination?  The veteran must provide a reasonable justification for rescheduling in writing.  The rescheduled examination should be conducted within 30 days of the date the request for rescheduling is received by post.  Please provide the Pittsburgh Regional Office a status of the exam whether it was cancelled or conducted by the provider.  Information regarding exam status can be sent to:

E-mail: foreignexam21.vbapit@va.gov
Fax: 1-844-531-7818

 

Note: Mailbox and fax number are for embassy staff use only. 

 

 

7 FAM 545  MEDICAL TREATMENT AND SERVICES

(CT:CON-618;   01-07-2016)

Reimbursed medical care and medical equipment is limited to services that are required to treat adjudicated service-connected conditions.  See below for specific information by geographic region.  Prescriptions and prosthetic appliances may also be provided.

NOTE:  For further information, visit the U.S.VA Foreign Medical Program and VA Health Administration Center (HAC) sites.

7 FAM 545.1  Foreign Medical Program (FMP) for all Countries Except the Philippines

(CT:CON-618;   01-07-2016)

a. Application (Prior to treatment):  Veterans should register with the FMP before obtaining health services.  The registration form can be obtained by contacting the FMP office or going to the VA Foreign Medical Program site.

Foreign Medical Program Office (FMP)

Health Administration Center
P.O. Box 469061
Denver, CO 80246-9061
Telephone: 303-331-7590
U.S. toll-free: 1-877-345-8179
FAX: 303-331-7807

b. Authorization:

(1)  FMP will confirm eligibility and forward an FMP authorization directly to the veteran;

(2)  The authorization will identify him/her VA adjudicated service-connected condition(s) for which treatment is authorized and provide a certification that the Department of Veterans Affairs will assume payment for treatment that is medically necessary for those identified conditions and is accepted by the VA/US medical community; and

(3)  Pre-authorization is not required.  FMP approves medical equipment requests and authorizes the veteran to purchase the item locally at VA expense.

c.  Claims:

(1)  May be submitted by the veteran/fiduciary or the provider of services;

(2)  Must be submitted directly to FMP office;

(3)  Must be submitted no later than two years from the date of treatment/service; and

(4)  Must include:

(a)  Veteran’s full name;

(b)  VA Claim Number;

(c)  U.S. Social Security number;

(d)  Provider’s full name and billing address;

(e)  Provider’s itemized billing statement with a medical diagnosis of condition(s) treated, a narrative description of each service, the billed charge, and the date(s) of service;

(f)   Medical record documentation (i.e., outpatient notes, hospital discharge summaries and operative reports) which justifies the necessity of the service and its relationship to the veteran’s adjudicated service-connected condition(s); and

(g)  Claims for prescription drugs indicating the names and quantities of each drug dispensed, and/or prosthetic appliances.

d. Payments:  All payments are made in U.S. currency based on the exchange rate effective on the date of service.  For episodes of hospitalization, the exchange rate is based on the date of discharge.

e. Where to Send:  Authorization requests, claims, inquiries, etc. dealing with the Foreign Medical Program, except the Philippines, should be directed to:

Chief Business Office Purchased Care

Foreign Medical Program (FMP)
P.O. Box 469061
Denver, CO 80246-9061
FAX: 303-331-7807

E-Mail: HAC.FMP@VA.Gov

7 FAM 545.2  Foreign Medical Program (FMP) Philippines

(CT:CON-618;   01-07-2016)

a. General:  The U.S. VA Regional Office & Outpatient Clinic Manila administers VA medical care in the Philippines.  Medical care may be provided for service-connected disabilities and, with limitations, for the non-service-connected disabilities of those veterans who also have recognized service-connected disabilities.  Outpatient medical care for treatment of service-connected disabilities will be provided at the VA Outpatient Clinic Manila and through contract inpatient and/or outpatient, fee basis providers.  Outpatient medical care for treatment of the non-service-connected disabilities mentioned above is limited to the care that can be provided at the VA Outpatient Clinic Manila.

b. Application (Prior to treatment) You should advise veterans to submit their requests for VA authorized treatment in writing and send them to:

VA Outpatient Clinic
1131 Roxas Boulevard
Pasay City, Philippines
FAX: 011-632-838-4566

Include the same information as indicated in 7 FAM 544.2.

c.  Claims Reimbursement for medical care not authorized by the Manila Clinic will be requested through Form VA-10-583, Claim for Payment of Cost of Unauthorized Medical Services, and submitted to the address specified in 7 FAM 544.1.   Payment for unauthorized medical care will be made by the Manila Clinic directly to the claimant in Philippine currency.

d. Authorization:  Upon receipt of a treatment request, the Manila VA Outpatient Clinic will confirm eligibility through the Manila VA Regional Office.  Upon verification of eligibility, the VA clinic will coordinate medical care directly with the veteran.  Unless the need for emergency care precludes otherwise, pre-authorization will be required for medical care and services not provided through the Manila VA Outpatient Clinic.

7 FAM 545.3  Dental Examinations and Treatment

(CT:CON-698;   02-09-2017)

Visit Web site Foreign Medical Program handbook.

7 FAM 546  Benefit Checks

7 FAM 546.1  Methods of Payment

(CT:CON-618;   01-07-2016)

a. Currently, VA has established international direct deposit (IDD) of VA payments in Germany, Ireland and the United Kingdom.  VA hopes to expand IDD to as many foreign counties as possible.

b. If IDD is not possible, U.S. citizen applicants may arrange to have direct deposit to a U.S. account through their banking facility in the U.S.  Otherwise, the VA mails monthly benefit checks via International Priority Airmail (IPA) directly to the recipient.  In countries where IPA is not feasible, the checks are mailed via APO/FPO facilities or pouched to the consular posts.

c.  If the checks are sent in bulk shipments to your post, Post is then responsible for distributing the checks to the recipients through the local postal service or other appropriate means.  For further information, see 7 FAM 520.

7 FAM 546.2  What if a Benefit Check is not Received?

(CT:CON-618;  01-07-2016)

a. See 7 FAM 523.

b. The VA needs to know:

(1)  Name of the beneficiary (veteran, widow, child of veteran, parent of veteran);

(2)  VA claim number or Social Security number of the veteran and the payee number if known   (00-veteran, 10-widow, 11-19 or 31 for children, etc);

(3)  Date of the check (for example, January 1, 2002);

(4)  Type of benefit (pension, compensation, education, etc.) if known;

(5)  Current address of claimant; and

(6)  If the address has changed since the previous check was issued, VA will input the new address, reissue the check, and direct it to the corrected address.  A change of address must be processed by the 15th of the month to be effective on the next check.  If the replacement check is returned, benefits will be suspended immediately.

c.  What you should do for bulk shipments:

(1)  Verify that a payment has been issued with the check list enclosed in the bulk shipment;

(2)  Allow a minimum of 10 calendar days after date of payment to elapse; and

(3)  See 7 FAM 526d(1) and 7 FAM 527.1.

d. What post should do if the check was sent by International Priority Airmail.  See 7 FAM 526c, 7 FAM 527.2 and 7 FAM 527.3.

e. What the Claimant should know:

(1)  If the Department of Treasury finds no indication that the check has been negotiated (the quality of being negotiable or transferable by endorsement, Section 7020, Treasury Financial Manual, Chapter 7000, Cancelations, Deposits, and Claims for Checks Drawn on the U.S. Treasury), they will issue a courtesy replacement check.  (It will take up to four weeks or more to replace a current month non-negotiated check.);

(2)  If the Department of Treasury determines that the missing check was actually negotiated, they will send the payee an image of the check and Form FMS-3858, Claims Package that includes the Form FMS-1133, Claim against the United States for the Proceeds of a Government Check;

(3)  If the payee agrees that he/she did in fact sign the check, no further action is necessary.  (This usually takes six weeks to provide.); and

(4)  If the payee claims that he/she did not endorse the check and forgery is alleged, the payee must complete the Form FMS-1133, Claim against the United States for the Proceeds of a Government Check and return it to the address provided.  Upon receipt of the claim form, Treasury will adjudicate the claim.  If Treasury determines that a forgery has occurred, a settlement check is authorized to the payee or a transfer is authorized to the agency.  (Forgery investigations usually take about one year and replacement checks are not issued until Treasury completes the investigation).

NOTE: Once a replacement check has been requested, under no circumstances should the beneficiary cash the original check.  It should be returned to the Treasury.  If both checks are cashed, an overpayment will be created and benefits will be withheld from a future check without notification.

7 FAM 547  Education Benefits

(CT:CON-637;   02-23-2016)

a. U.S. Veterans of the post-Korea conflict period, including current members of the Armed Forces, are eligible for education benefits.

b. For education benefits to be paid outside the United States, the beneficiary must be enrolled in a program of study approved by VA.

c.  For more information, visit the VA Educational Benefits website.

7 FAM 548  Other Services

7 FAM 548.1  Burial Flags

(CT:CON-618;   01-07-2016)

a. Summary:  Foreign Service posts serve as the issuing agents for U.S. burial flags.  The number of flags to be maintained at each post is determined by the veteran population in the consular district, but a minimum of two should always be available.  A burial flag should not be removed from its carton until used for a veteran’s funeral.

See VA Burial and Memorial Benefits Web page

b. Number of Flags May Be Distributed:  The VA is authorized to issue only one flag per deceased veteran.  Once a flag is presented it cannot be replaced under any circumstances.

c.  Eligibility:  The following deceased veterans are eligible to receive a United States flag to drape the casket or accompany the urn.  Those who:

(1)  Served in any war;

(2)  Died while on active duty;

(3)  Served after January 31, 1955;

(4)  Served at least one enlistment or had been discharged or released from active service for a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty; and

(5)  Are entitled to retired pay for service in the National Guard or Reserves at the time of death, or would have been entitled to retired pay, but for being under 60 years of age.

d. Application:  In regards to the Application for United States Flag for burial purposes, Form VA-27-2008, VA does not dictate who must complete it.  Generally, the next of kin or the funeral director may complete the form which is available on the VA forms siteIf available, a copy of the death certificate and military separation or discharge document should be included.

e. U.S. Citizen Victims of Terrorism:  Review “Burial Flags” section of 7 FAM 1800 Consular Crisis Management for guidance about transporting the remains of U.S. citizen victims of terrorism abroad and the propriety of using burial flags.

f.  Authorized uses of the flags:  Flags may be used to:

(1)  Drape the casket of the veteran prior to interment, entombment, or interment;

(2)  Accompany remains of the veteran in transit to the place of final disposition;

(3)  Burial purposes in connection with the death of in-service personnel who die at points where armed forces cannot supply such flags in time for burial; and

(4)  As a memorial after final disposition as indicated on Form VA-21-2008.

g. Ordering New Flags:  The Service Distribution Center (SDC) distributes and replenishes burial flags; however, the VA office will need the following:

(1)  Your complete mailing address, including the name of your point of contact and telephone number since they use parcel post for overseas shipments of this type;

(2)  The number of burial flags you immediately need;

(3)  To initiate and expedite “future replenishments,” for burial flags send the entire original completed copy VA 27-2008, Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes with attach copy of DD 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty; or other documentation that contains acceptable evidence of the eligibility of the deceased Veteran whenever possible as you receive them to the VASDC/OPERATION address noted below; and

(4)  The purpose for submitting the completed application with attached copy of the DD 214 immediately to the VASDC/OPERATION address -noted below- is to ensure timely notification of the Veteran’s death to the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Please insert the appropriate information noted under the Notification of Issuance of Flags, at the bottom portion of VAF 27-2008.  Documents should be mailed to:

VASDC/OPERATIONS

PO BOX 27

HINES, IL 60141

7 FAM 548.2  Fiduciary Field Investigations

(CT:CON-618;   01-07-2016)

a. VA's Fiduciary Program was established to protect veterans and other beneficiaries who, due to injury, disease, or due to age, are unable to manage their financial affairs. VA will only determine an individual to be unable to manage his or her financial affairs after receipt of medical documentation or if a court of competent jurisdiction has already made the determination.

b. On occasion, VA may request that Post conduct a field visit to a VA beneficiary to assist the VA in determining if he/she is competent to handle his/her funds or to observe daily living in the household when claimant may be competent, but incapacitated.  VA will provide post with specific written instructions, including travel reimbursement procedures, on a case-by-case basis.  After review of information obtained by the consular officer during the visit, the VA will make the determination.

c.  Upon determining a beneficiary is unable to manage his/her financial affairs, VA will appoint a fiduciary. The fiduciary, normally chosen by the beneficiary, must undergo an investigation of their suitability to serve. This investigation includes a criminal background check, review of credit report, personal interview, and recommendations of character references. Only after a complete investigation is a fiduciary appointed to manage a beneficiaries VA benefits. The fiduciary is responsible to the beneficiary and oversees financial management of VA benefit payments. Generally, family members or friends serve as fiduciaries for beneficiaries; however, when friends and family are not able to serve, VA looks for qualified individuals or organizations to serve as a fiduciary.

d. VA may also request the consular officer to investigate the fitness and suitability of guardians or other court fiduciaries as well as recognition of legal custodians for minor or incompetent beneficiaries.

7 FAM 548.3  Veterans Readiness and Employment Program

(CT:CON-899;   09-24-2020)

Visit VA Veterans Readiness and Employment Program website.

7 FAM 548.4  Military Medals and Military Records

(CT:CON-618;   01-07-2016)

For information about U.S. military medals and U.S. military records, see the National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records website.

7 FAM 548.5  Home Loan Guaranty

(CT:CON-618;   01-07-2016)

a. VA Home Loan Guaranties are only available in the United States and its territories.  Veterans who reside overseas may be eligible for Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) or Special Housing Adaption (SHA).

b. The SAH grant is designed to help disabled Veterans by providing a barrier-free living environment, such as a wheelchair accessible home, that affords Veterans a level of independent living they may not otherwise enjoy.  Veterans and Servicemembers with specific service-connected disabilities may be entitled to a grant for the purpose of constructing or modifying a home to meet their adaptive needs.

c.  The SAH grant is available to certain Veterans and Servicemembers who are entitled to disability compensation due to loss or loss of use of both lower extremities, such as to preclude locomotion without the aid of braces, crutches, canes, or a wheelchair; blindness in both eyes, plus loss or loss of use of one lower extremity; loss or loss of use of one lower extremity together with (1) residuals of organic disease or injury, or (2) the loss or loss of use of one upper extremity, affecting balance or propulsion as to preclude locomotion without the aid of braces, crutches, canes, or a wheelchair; loss or loss of use of both upper extremities at or above the elbows, or a severe burn injury.

d. The SHA grant can be used to increase the mobility of eligible Veteran and Servicemembers throughout their residences.   The SHA grant is available to certain Veterans and Servicemembers who are entitled to disability compensation due to blindness in both eyes with 20/200 visual acuity or less in the better eye with the use of a standard correcting lens; the anatomical loss or loss of use of both hands or extremities below the elbow, or a severe burn injury.

7 FAM 549  NOTIFY THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS OF CHANGES OF STATUS AND ADDRESS OF BENEFICIARIES

7 FAM 549.1  Change of Address, Citizenship Status, Name, Claim Number

(CT:CON-637;   02-23-2016)

Report the following changes of status to the Pittsburgh Regional Office for veterans receiving compensation and the Philadelphia Pension Maintenance Center for veterans and/or dependents receiving pension, DIC, survivors and parents pension via email or fax (VA office contact information is provided in 7 FAM 543.4):

(1)  Change of address;

(2)  Beneficiary’s name;

(3)  Claim number; and

(4)  Citizenship status.

See Form VA-21-572

7 FAM 549.2  Report Deaths of Beneficiaries

(CT:CON-899;   09-24-2020)

The Consular Officer should notify the appropriate VA office:

a. Death of veterans who were in receipt of compensation should be reported to the Pittsburgh RO.

b. Death of veterans and/or dependents who were in receipt of pension, DIC, survivors and parents' pension should be reported to the Philadelphia PMC.

c.  The report should be done via email or fax. (VA office contact information is provided in 7 FAM 543.4).  The following should be included in the notification:

(1)  The beneficiary’s name;

(2)  Claim number;

(3)  Date of death;

(4)  Place of death; and

(5)  Information for survivor benefits (name, address and telephone number of surviving family member.

7 FAM 549.3  Marriages, Birth of Dependents and Other Changes of Status

(CT:CON-899;   09-24-2020)

a. Veterans abroad can notify the VA directly of changes in beneficiaries including spouses, children and dependent parents.  This can be accomplished using Form VA-21-686c, Declaration of Status of Dependents, or VA Form VA-21-674, Request for Approval of School Attendance for dependents over age 18 and attending school, or Form VA-21-P509 – Statement of Dependency of Parent(s), and electronically via www.va.gov.  U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) website, www.va.gov, enables service members, veterans and their beneficiaries, and other designated individuals to apply for benefits using the Internet.

b. Consular officers or RFBOs may also assist veterans in reporting marriages and birth of dependents, and other changes of status to the appropriate VA Foreign Desk This information may come to post's attention when assisting a veteran residing in the consular district with issuance of a Consular Report of Birth of a U.S. Citizen Abroad or other service.  When the change of status relates to veterans who were in receipt of compensation, it should be reported to the Pittsburgh Regional Office. When it relates to veterans and/or dependents that were in receipt of pension, DIC, survivors and parents' pension, it should be reported to the Philadelphia Pension Maintenance Center.  (VA office contact information is provided in 7 FAM 543.4).

 

UNCLASSIFIED (U)