So you’re ready to file a VA claim. This is a great idea. Why?
First of all, you’ve earned it. Your time in service comes with its rewards, and one of them is care. Why wouldn’t you utilize this for yourself and your family? Too many veterans avoid filing a claim because they don’t feel they are “disabled.”
The truth is, disabled or not, if you received any type of injury during your time of service, you are entitled to care. Even if not “very serious,” whatever disability compensation you may receive can be put toward caring for that injury in the future.
It’s important you get the care you were promised for the time you served. In fact, even a 0% rating will be helpful as it gives the VA a point of reference for the future if the disability worsens. This actually makes it easier to get an increased rating if needed. To qualify for a VA claim, you must have an injury that was either caused or made worse by your time in service. It is at least worth checking out if you qualify for your family’s sake. This is the fastest way to get started!
In short, if you’ve served and received even a small injury in the time of service that is not fully recovered, filing a claim is a good idea.
How do I file a VA Claim?
There are multiple claims to be filed with the VA. But for this article, we will be discussing an Original Claim.
It’s possible to file a claim anytime after leaving service. However, the longer away from service, you are, the harder it may become to have a claim approved. This is because your evidence could be lost, and it gets harder to service connect your disability. File as soon as you can, there’s no reason to wait!
It’s also possible to file a claim up to 180 days before being discharged. This can be done through the Benefits Delivery at Discharge program, which may help your claim be approved at a faster rate.
The fastest way to file and apply for benefits is by going online and using the Veterans On-Line Application (VONAPP). However, you may also apply through the mail by filling out and sending in the Application for Veterans Compensation and/or Pension. This form is available on the VA Forms website and at your local VA office.
Filing can also be done over the phone by calling 800-827-1000, or directly in person at the VA Office nearest you.
What do I need to file a successful claim?
One of the main reasons veterans have their claim rejected is that they file without preparing correctly.
If you are injured or diseased, it’s essential to obtain all the medical records possible to report to the VA. This includes your medical records before service, but ESPECIALLY any taken during service. This is important since the VA will look to find the event that serves as the catalyst for your disability. They will compare your records before and during service as well before they make a decision.
This makes it very important that you gather as much evidence as possible. The VA will be looking specifically for proof of a physical or mental disability. They will look to determine if what you are dealing with makes you less able to do the regular tasks in life. The NUMBER ONE REASON WHY CLAIMS ARE DENIED IS LACK OF MEDICAL EVIDENCE!
Don’t let this be you! There are simple solutions to this problem. Including going to your current doctor and getting a medical connection or visiting our medical team to get those letters filled out correctly.
They will also be looking closely to make sure that the injury or disability is a result of your service. The more evidence you can provide that proves your disability started during military service, the better. Any events, injuries, or illnesses that occurred while serving in the military should be recorded and then presented with your claim. Even evidence like buddy letters and personal statements are used as evidence to prove your claim.
This evidence should be presented in the following documents:
- Service treatment records
- Medical evidence related to illness or injury (including X-rays, doctor’s reports and medical test results
- Separation documents like your DD214
The VA will require all these documents to be submitted or that they are given permission to access them.
Now that you have that ready let’s discuss…
What NOT to do when filing a claim with the VA
Today around 30% of VA Claims are denied, and it’s estimated that roughly 60% of those denials are made in error.
Once denied, it can take between 12-18 months for an appeal to be decided. That’s the time that you cannot get back in regards to your care.
This is why it is so important to put your claim together in the most accessible way possible.
While compiling evidence for your claim is very important, many make the mistake of overwhelming the VA with TOO MUCH information.
The VA receives thousands of claims daily. Many veterans fill out their form and attach hundreds of pages of medical records hoping to get their benefits.
If denied, most veterans grab another form and submit again, this time attaching MORE pages of records.
But the problem isn’t always a lack of information, sometimes it’s too much.
While the evidence supporting your claim must be submitted, the specific facts the VA needs can get lost in the mountains of records they receive. Unfortunately the VA will not take the liberty of going through all your files to find the best and most relevant evidence. They simply do not have the time or manpower to do so.
To increase your chances of being approved the first time, it would be wise to submit only the records directly associated with your disability. When the VA receives an excellent, tightly formulated claim, they can review and process it much more quickly. And the odds of them missing the most critical information regarding your claim get much lower.
Therefore, have a plan while putting your claim together. Know what the VA requires for approval and do your best to understand their process.
What happens after I submit my claim to the VA?!
Depending on how the claim was submitted, veterans should receive confirmation of receipt from the VA within hours (if filed electronically) to two weeks (if submitted through the mail).
From there, a representative from the VA will begin reviewing the claim, to determine if they require any more information. If needed, they will start contacting the sources of that information, which could be anyone from the veteran themselves to a previous doctor, to a government agency that holds more records.
Once all the necessary evidence is gathered, the claim will enter a review to determine approval. If approved, a rating will be recommended to the appropriate legal representative. After the recommendation is reviewed, it is to be returned to the VA to be finalized. From there, a claim packet will be sent to the veteran who made a claim.
Know this, seeing what your options are is ALWAYS a good idea. This is the FASTEST and EASIEST way to get started. No commitment, just see what you deserve under the law. Talk to you soon Vet!
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About the Author
VA Claims insider is an education-based coaching/consulting company. We’re here for disabled veterans exploring eligibility for increased VA disability benefits and who wish to learn more about that process. We also connect veterans with independent medical professionals in our referral network for medical examinations, disability evaluations, and credible Independent Medical Opinions & Nexus Statements (Medical Nexus Letters) for a wide range of disability conditions.