VSO’s: RO Guidance for DRO Formal Hearings- ADDITIONAL INFORMATION- URGENT

All,

See VBA’s guidance on hearings below.

V/r,

Greg Nembhard

"The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, the ears of the wise seeks it out” (King Solomon)

From: Stoddard, Michael T., VBAVACO [mailto:Michael.Stoddard2@va.gov]
Sent: Monday, March 16, 2020 3:21 PM
To: Derek Fronabarger <dfronabarger@woundedwarriorproject.org>; Jose Ramos <jramos@woundedwarriorproject.org>; John Roberts (JRoberts@woundedwarriorproject.org) <JRoberts@woundedwarriorproject.org>; jmarszalek@dav.org; Steven Wolf <SWolf@DAV.ORG>; Jon N. Retzer (JRetzer@dav.org) <JRetzer@dav.org>; Kelsey Yoon (VVA) <kyoon@vva.org>; Felicia Mullaney <fmullaney@vva.org>; Olson, Heather <Heather.Olson2@va.gov>; Ghezzi, Alec, VSOWASH <Alec.Ghezzi@va.gov>; JosephB@pva.org; Marco Rossi <marcor@pva.org>; Nembhard, Greg <GNembhard@legion.org>; Nuntavong, Chanin <CNuntavong@legion.org>; Gallucci, Ryan VSOWASH <Ryan.Gallucci@va.gov>; Ryan Gallucci <ryan.gallucci@gmail.com>; Corey Titus MOAA <CoryT@moaa.org>; Paul Frost MOAA <paulf@moaa.org>; Duayne Driscoll (ddriscoll@amvetsnsf.org) <ddriscoll@amvetsnsf.org>; mblack@amvetsnsf.org
Subject: [EXTERNAL] VSO’s: RO Guidance for DRO Formal Hearings- ADDITIONAL INFORMATION- URGENT

VSO Leaders

Amid the growing concerns about the spread of COVID-19, AMO Operations wants to ensure appeals employees are able to continue expeditious processing of appeals, while also taking steps to limit Veterans, as well as their own, avenues of potential exposure to the virus to fullest extent possible. Therefore, we are instructing all ROs with pending DRO hearings to contact Veterans and/or representatives to advise them that formal, in-person DRO hearings will be delayed until further notice, and to offer the alternative of a telephonic informal conference in lieu of a hearing.

  • Beginning today, March 16, 2020, ROs must contact Veterans and representatives with formal DRO hearings scheduled for March 16, 2020, through March 27, 2020, and offer a telephonic informal conference in lieu of an in-person, formal hearing. Unless AMO provides guidance otherwise, on Monday, March 23, 2020, ROs must contact Veterans and representatives with formal DRO hearings scheduled for the week beginning March 30th, and offer a telephonic informal conference in lieu of an in-person, formal hearing. ROs should continue this procedure for each week that the RO has hearings scheduled until further notice from AMO.
  • If the Veteran/representative prefers an in-person, formal DRO hearing over a telephonic informal conference, please notify them in writing that the scheduling of their hearing will be delayed until further notice. Advise that we cannot predict when normal scheduling of DRO hearings will resume. If a Veteran/representative prefers an in-person, formal hearing, do not issue a decision until a formal hearing has been held.
  • If your RO has planned closures or alternative work schedules that impact your appeals team, please notify AMO of the changes immediately.
  • Please remind your decision makers to enter any hearing changes in VACOLS.
  • AMO continues to explore options for conducting virtual formal DRO hearings and will issue additional guidance as soon as this hearing method becomes available.

For questions regarding this guidance, please contact Monica Thomas.

Sincerely,

Appeals Management Office

Operations Staff

Michael (Mike) Stoddard

VBA Veteran Organization Liaison

Under Secretary for Benefits

Department of Veterans Affairs

Email: michael.stoddard2

Office Phone: 202-461-9079

A Proud Soldier for Life!

VA Core Values: Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, Excellence (I CARE)

From: Stoddard, Michael T., VBAVACO
Sent: Monday, March 16, 2020 3:14 PM
To: Derek Fronabarger <dfronabarger>; Jose Ramos <jramos>; John Roberts (JRoberts) <JRoberts>; jmarszalek; Steven Wolf <SWolf>; Jon N. Retzer (JRetzer) <JRetzer>; Kelsey Yoon (VVA) <kyoon>; Felicia Mullaney <fmullaney>; Olson, Heather <Heather.Olson2>; Ghezzi, Alec, VSOWASH <Alec.Ghezzi>; JosephB; Marco Rossi <marcor>; Greg Nembhard <GNembhard>; Nuntavong, Chanin <CNuntavong>; Gallucci, Ryan VSOWASH <Ryan.Gallucci>; Ryan Gallucci <ryan.gallucci>; Corey Titus MOAA <CoryT>; Paul Frost MOAA <paulf>; Duayne Driscoll (ddriscoll) <ddriscoll>; mblack
Subject: VSO’s: RO Guidance for DRO Formal Hearings

Veteran Service Organizations Leaders

We appreciate your questions and concerns related to COVID-19 and the risk associated with social contact to our Veterans, representatives, and employees. We have implemented measures to ensure Veterans have DRO hearing options even if they are unable attend in-person meetings. We wanted to communicate with you so that you are also aware of the guidance issued below. Please contact regional office management or hearing personnel at your stations if you questions about your pending DRO hearings. If you have questions associated with this email, feel free to reach out to the AMO POC as noted below.

Best regards,

Appeals Management Office

Operations Staff

Appeals Operations Production POCs

Anthony Perry/ Eugene Scott

Paul Leners / Frank Carter

Appeals Operations Forecast and Analysis POCs

Dayna Ribnikar / Mary Frances Garren
Christopher Watts / Erik Tonne
Shanita Jones / Michael (Mike) Stoddard

VBA Veteran Organization Liaison

Under Secretary for Benefits

Department of Veterans Affairs

Email: michael.stoddard2

Office Phone: 202-461-9079

Mobile: (202) 891-9168

A Proud Soldier for Life!

VA Core Values: Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, Excellence (I CARE)

From: Stoddard, Michael T., VBAVACO
Sent: Monday, March 16, 2020 2:43 PM
To: Derek Fronabarger <dfronabarger>; Jose Ramos <jramos>; John Roberts (JRoberts) <JRoberts>; jmarszalek; Steven Wolf <SWolf>; Jon N. Retzer (JRetzer) <JRetzer>; Kelsey Yoon (VVA) <kyoon>; Felicia Mullaney <fmullaney>; Olson, Heather <Heather.Olson2>; Ghezzi, Alec, VSOWASH <Alec.Ghezzi>; JosephB; Marco Rossi <marcor>; Greg Nembhard <GNembhard>; Nuntavong, Chanin <CNuntavong>; Gallucci, Ryan VSOWASH <Ryan.Gallucci>; Ryan Gallucci <ryan.gallucci>; Corey Titus MOAA <CoryT>; Paul Frost MOAA <paulf>; Duayne Driscoll (ddriscoll) <ddriscoll>; mblack
Subject: C &P Exam Initial Message- Still Normal Operating Procedures

VSO Leaders

Good afternoon…I have received a lot of emails and text that began this weekend in reference to C & P Exams. I have spoken to Ms. Devlin and the VBA Comp Service Team. We are working on an official message that we will send out. Here is what I know to be true in the interim:

VBA’s expectation is the C & P Exams will go as scheduled. We are tracking cancellations and to this point most of the exams have been cancelled by Veterans mainly due to concern with COVID-19. The part we have no control over is if the provider falls ill or closes their clinic and the notification doesn’t reach the Veteran in time.

What I will request from you: If you have or are notified of a specific concern with a Veteran who shows up to their appointment but is not seen or told their appointment was cancelled. Please send this to me with the Veteran information, location and if possible what contractor.

We will attempt to track down what happened and get back to you. I appreciate your leadership and support. And I definitely appreciate your understanding as we work thru this challenging time.

I plan to be in the office and not telework as I want to be available for you and your Veterans. You have my numbers and email…Please reach out to me should you have a concern. And please know I am getting a lot of emails. If I do not respond to you in a reasonable time, please call me.

I wish you all the best of health.

Respectfully

Mike

Michael (Mike) Stoddard

VBA Veteran Organization Liaison

Under Secretary for Benefits

Department of Veterans Affairs

Email: michael.stoddard2

Office Phone: 202-461-9079

Mobile: (202) 891-9168

A Proud Soldier for Life!

VA Core Values: Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, Excellence (I CARE)