Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) Access
The Veterans Benefits Management System serves as an electronic database of Veterans’ claims files. Currently, both VA and Veterans’ representatives have access to this system– a critical piece to effective representation. VBMS allows representatives to see into their Veteran clients’ case in real-time; such as access to recent decisions, exams, correspondence with VA, claims and appeals filing, and more.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has proposed to amend its regulations addressing under which circumstances attorneys representing veterans are allowed to access VBMS. Currently, VBMS access is granted to the selected representative and any additional attorneys or accredited agents working for a law firm who is named on VA Form 21-22a (“Appointment of Individual as Claimant’s Representative”). However, the proposed regulation will significantly restrict attorney and accredited agent access to VBMS. Specifically, only the individual representative who signs the form will have full access to the system. All other attorneys or accredited agents listed on the VA Form 21-22a will have to request physical copies of claims files, status updates, and decisions from VA directly.
Put simply, VA’s proposed plan to limit access only to accredited, designated attorneys and agents would limit accredited Veterans’ representatives’ abilities to provide the competent and thorough representation that Veterans deserve. It would also diminish the ability of Veteran claimants to hire law firms generally since VA’s proposals only consider a single accredited person as having the ability to represent a Veteran and to access that claimant’s electronic records via the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS).