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FAQs: Veterans'-use-only certified copies

Beginning January 1, 2014, there is a change in procedure for issuance of veterans’-use-only certified copies. The following is a list of frequently asked questions.



Why was the procedure changed?
The intent of the law is to support access to veterans’ benefits for the family without incurring the cost of a certified copy. The Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs estimates that only four percent (4%) of families access veterans’ benefits other than the burial benefits. Directing veterans’-use-only certified copies to the Veterans’ Service Offices (VSOs) should support the use of benefits.

What are we supposed to do?
To best serve the families of veterans, we ask that you:
• continue to meet with families to complete the Application for Burial Benefits if this is part of your current services;
• order veterans’-use-only certified copies using a written application form;
• include where to send the veterans’-use-only certified copies (and the Application for Burial Benefits, if relevant); and
• encourage the family to contact the local VSO for full information on benefits that might be available.

What are veterans’-use-only certified copies?
State and county vital records offices can provide up to two free certified copies of vital records – usually death certificates – to VSOs in support of pending applications for veterans’ benefits.

What is the procedural change?
Free veterans’-use-only certified copies will no longer be given directly to funeral directors or family members. Funeral directors and families will order the veterans’-use-only certified copies and specify any VSO to receive the record. The vital records office will then send the certified copies to the VSO specified on the order form.
If there are documents, such as the Application for Burial Benefits, that need to go with the certified copy, the county (or state) vital records office will include the documents when mailing the certified copy to the VSO.

Is the procedural change because of the new law?
No. The change in the law was very minor, expanding its scope from only war veterans to all veterans. The current law continues the limitation of requested copies in support of a pending application for benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs. We have interpreted ‘pending application’ broadly to include an application for burial benefits that has been prepared, but not yet sent, to the VSO.

Shouldn’t these free certified copies be available to all veterans, regardless of use?
The statute provides for free certified copies specifically in connection with veterans’ benefits. These copies are intended to help the family access veterans’ benefits from a VSO without incurring the cost of a certified copy. The Center for Health Statistics recently became aware that free certified copies intended for use in processing veterans’ benefits had become confused with free certified copies to any veteran for general use.

How does the Veterans’ Services Office get the certified copy?
Usually, the funeral director orders the veterans’-use-only certified copies (or a family member if acting as their own funeral services practitioner), but the documents will be sent directly to a VSO by the vital records office. This can be a local, state, regional, or national office as identified on the application. The certified copy will be sent to the VSO by the state or county vital records office.

Applications for Burial Benefits are usually processed by the Portland regional U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Pre-addressed, postage-paid envelopes are available for that purpose and will be shared with county vital records offices in the next few weeks.

There is significant delay in processing the Application for Burial Benefits if the application is incomplete (no certified copy). What is happening about that?
County vital records offices have been instructed that if the family or a funeral home representative provides the Application for Burial Benefits to the county vital records office with the order for the veterans’-use-only certified copy, the application should be sent with the certified copy.

What if the Application for Burial Benefits is not completed when the certified copies are ordered?
If the family has not completed the Application for Burial Benefits, the veterans’-use-only certified copies can be ordered separately at a later date. Since there is no fee for the certified copy, there is no impact on the family to order separately.

Do veterans’-use-only copies have to be ordered at the same time as other certified copies?
No, veterans’-use-only copies can be ordered at any time. Just provide the county or state vital records office with an order and the Application for Burial Benefits, if applicable, along with the address of the appropriate VSO. The vital records office will send the free copy.

How will the county or state vital records office know where to send the veterans-use-only certified copies?
The most frequent use of veterans’-use-only certified copies are for the Application for Burial Benefits. Those applications can be sent to the Portland regional U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs office at:

USDVA
100 SW Main St., FL 2
Portland, OR 97204
 
For other applications or contacts, the order form must indicate where to send the veterans’-use-only certified copies. These copies go only to a Veterans’ Services Office, but can go to any VSO (local, state, regional, or national). Veterans’-use-only certified copies are not delivered to the funeral home or family. A VSO can order a free certified copy when needed if the family does not know whether a veterans’ use only certified copy is needed or which VSO should receive the certified copy.

Where are the addresses for the Veterans’ Services Offices?
The Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs maintains contact information for state, county, and regional offices. The family, guided by funeral home experience, should determine which office gets the certified copies. It is important that families talk with the county VSO whenever possible to assure they are aware of all the benefits available.

What if the family does not want the county or state vital records office to see the information on the application for burial benefits?
We understand that families might want privacy. Postage-paid envelopes are being provided so that the application can be sealed in the envelope and then given to the vital records office.

What if the family orders directly from the county or state vital records office?
Families will receive the same service and limitations as funeral homes. The veterans’-use-only certified copies will be mailed directly to the VSO by the vital records office.

What if the county vital records office does not send the veterans’-use-only copy and application quickly?
Although county vital records offices did not ask us to make this procedural change, every county vital records office has voiced support for assisting the families of those who have served our country. It is understood that including the Application for Burial Benefits with the certified copy provides much faster service at the VSO. County vital records offices have expectations in place on the timeliness of completing all orders. If there are specific concerns about county timeliness, please contact the state office and we will follow up.

What if the Veterans’ Services Office says they never received the certified copy?
VSOs, like other recipients, can receive free replacements of certified copies that were lost in the mail. Either the county or the state office will process replacements and attach a copy of the application for burial benefits if it is available from the family or funeral home.

Who do I call if I have questions?
If you have any questions, please contact Karen Hampton at 971-673-1191 or by email.

Comparison of legislation before and after amendment

Previous law - ORS 432.080

Copy of vital records furnished without charge for use in proceeding on war veteran’s benefits.

Notwithstanding ORS 432.146, the State Registrar of the Center for Health Statistics or the county registrar shall furnish, without charge therefor, a certified copy of a vital record to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the Director of Veterans’ Affairs or any county service officer appointed under ORS 408.410 when the record is requested by the agency or officer in connection with, or for use as evidence in, any proceeding involving a claim based upon war veterans’ benefits.

New law - ORS 432.146

(2) The State Registrar of the Center for Health Statistics shall search the system of vital statistics and issue certified copies or other documents, as appropriate, without charge if the search or issuance is:

(a) Requested in connection with a pending application for benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, if proof of the application is first submitted; or

(b) In response to an administrative error as determined by the state registrar.​