Q&A with Senior National Service Officer, Brent FollasPosted By PVA Admin on May 23, 2022
PVA National Service Officers are accredited experts in VA benefits and procedures. They serve Veterans daily with dedication and compassion – especially after an ALS diagnosis. U.S. Air Force Veteran and PVA Senior National Service Officer Brent Follas explains his work with ALS Veterans and their families.
When a Veteran comes in with an ALS diagnosis, I’m assuming the first thing you do is get the benefits paperwork completed as soon as possible.
I have a streamlined way of getting them service connected [so they can begin collecting benefits]. I have instructions and all the forms ready for the nurse to give them. They have the veteran sign the VA Form 21-22, PVA Release of Information so they are able to automatically scan the medical records with the diagnosis to me. They give the veteran the rest of the forms and alert me by email and I give them a call.
Can you give us an example of some of the documents in that packet?
- The VA form 21-22 is a power of attorney that allows us to talk to the VA staff, hospital benefits department, and outside doctors, too. This means they can immediately send me the medical records with diagnosis and notes. Getting the medical records is sometimes the hardest part of getting everything together.
- PVA Release of Information for Private Facility –
- VA Application for Healthcare, if they are not already enrolled in the VA
- 526 Claim Form for ALS –
- There is also a Third-Party Form 21-0845 in there, so if they have a spouse or a family member or other caregiver advocating for them, the VA can speak to them on their behalf. Sometimes the Veteran loses the ability to speak, so that’s really helpful to have on hand.
- Various Grant Forms: VA Form 21-4502 Auto Grant, VA Form 26-4555.
What happens next?
I call the Veteran and explain all the benefits. It’s usually about an hour-long phone call.
How long does it take for the paperwork to go through?
If I can get everything back that day or when I get them back, I submit it to VA Benefits and check on it in a few days. When I see it established in the VA system, I get with my contact in the regional office who handles these claims, and I ask them to get them service connected and to get the auto grant form back certified to them, so that they can start using all their benefits and get in the VA.
The Veteran will then get called in for a Compensation and Pension Examination to check for any secondary conditions, like special monthly compensation, in case they need assistance in activities of daily living or if they have loss of use already.
Let’s talk about the various VA grants. Do they help with housing, vehicles, and equipment needs? For example, you might need to adapt your home or vehicle as your disease progresses, or your wheelchair needs may change.
Yes. The VA will pretty much supply almost everything and maintain it.
The Home Improvement Structural Alteration grant is a small grant that will help you modify bathrooms, widen doorways, or lower countertops for $6,800 – things like that. And the larger Special Adaptive Housing Grant gives you over $101,000 in total to modify a home. The Auto Grant will help the Veteran purchase a vehicle and then the VA will also pay for auto adaptive modifications.
It sounds like this is extremely useful information to have – and it’s important to move this process along quickly.
I’ve been able to do some extraordinary things for Veterans. The disease progresses so fast. I have experienced the Veteran dying before the claim is done. In those cases, we proceed with survivor benefits if there is a widow(er).
What happens after a Veteran passes from ALS?
I tell the surviving spouse to call me. I will have already spoken to the Veteran and his/her spouse about the survivor benefits so they will both know what to expect. They appreciate that, because the Veteran wants to know that their spouse will be taken care of.
I always want to make sure that ALS is on the death certificate, which will help them receive survivor benefits smoothly.
And then I go over the benefits. The Veterans’ compensation does go away but they get the last month. Then the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation will take over. They’ll also get a burial grant, and they are entitled to a Survivor Home Loan from the VA.
There is a lot of expertise here.
Other Veteran service organizations often come to us for questions. We’re just the best at it because of the training we receive, and we know ALL the VA Benefits including Special Monthly Compensation. PVA pioneered and advocated for a lot of the unique benefits for veterans for SCI/D. We go through annual training to keep up our accreditation and remain knowledgeable about new VA regulations. We go above and beyond the standard when it comes to helping Veterans and their families.