Disabled veterans stand a chance of free VA medical care and tax-free monetary compensation. But often, some vets are reluctant filing disability benefits owing to the various misconceptions, and backlogs surrounding the due process.
Truth be told, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) uses a rigorous system to consider your claims. VA team must parse through a swath of applications and verify various incidences making the process painfully slow. Depending on the type and level of debility, VA graduates disability on a scale of 10% to 100%.
Whether you are filing disability claims or soliciting for a higher disability rating with VA, we have prepared insightful tips to help you win.
Eligibility for Compensation
Lost files, multiple denials, long queues, and unyielding appointments, just to mention a few, are red tapes for vets filing VA disability benefits or an increment in compensation rates.
If you got injured or sick while serving the military, you are entitled to disability benefits. You can also file a claim if the service made an existing physical, medical or mental condition worse.
You also qualify in the case where you develop conditions before, during, and after the service that are linked directly and/or indirectly to your line of duty.
Trust me. You don’t want VA to request additional documents or information on your application. It would be like starting the process anew. Although you can use the newly introduced VA Fully Developed Claims program, you’d want to ensure that the first application goes through without hitches.
The preparation process involves gathering and providing relevant evidence. Here are some of the tips that can expedite the approval of your claims.
If you can, file for VA disability benefits while you are still on active duty. To do this, you must be within 60 and 180 days to your retirement. Enroll for the Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) program to file for your benefits while still on duty. File a “Quick Start” claim if you are leaving the military within 60 days.
Why file your claims such early? While at work, you can still access several departments with ease and get the required documentation. And for obvious reasons, the earlier you receive the compensation, the better.
Gather Sufficient Evidence
Most veterans do not understand which injury or ailment is service-connected. Because of the tons of application documents landing on the desk of the VA, it is nearly impossible to sift through every detail in your claim file.
If you are filing Total Disability Individual Employability (TDIU) benefits, have your paperwork ready. You have to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that you are unemployable due to medical conditions or injuries sustained while on active duty.
Ensure the documents can substantiate your work history. It should buttress the story that you are unemployable due to service-connected reasons.
You need to have:
- Documents supporting that you have a physical or mental disability that impairs you from undertaking daily tasks. Such docs can be photographs, medical assessment reports, or income statements of each family member.
- Documents showing that an event, injury, or illness sustained while on active duty is responsible for your disability. These docs can be medical reports or DD-214 reports among others. See the full list of the required docs here.
Note that filing your claim early enables you to avoid inter-current injuries and illnesses. These are conditions that can exacerbate your existing conditions once you are out of military service.
If you are within one year of leaving the military, you are still eligible to meet with a Veteran Service Officer (VSO) and file your claims.
Sometimes you might be uncertain if they will accept your application. This shouldn’t prevent you from preparing a claim. File a claim. If you are awarded, you can receive or decline the compensation. The point is, if your current condition worsens off, it would be easier to file VA disability benefits.
Submit ‘intent to file’ form
Officers who do not have sufficient documentation can submit an ‘intent to file’ form at ebenefits.gov. You will be given a year to provide the required documentation online.
Get an Attorney
If the process of filing is hectic, and you don’t have family members who can help you in the process, consider hiring a lawyer. Attorneys can be of great help as they know the type of documents required and the rationale used by the VA to award compensation.
Once you complete preparing your paperwork, file VA disability benefits through Veterans On-Line Application (VONAPP), via mail (make sure to complete Application for Veterans Compensation and/or Pension form) or make a call to 800-827-1000. You can as well visit VA offices.
When to Apply for VA Disability Benefits
As soon as you suffer injury or illness that is service-connected, file a claim. Take advantage of BDD or ‘intent to file’ programs to expedite the process.
How to File an Appeal with the VA
You might deserve compensation, but VA slaps you with a declination letter. It’s not the end. File for an appeal to the VA office or the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA).
If your appeal falls on deaf ears, you can:
- Ask the BVA to reconsider your application only if you believe the board made an error of fact or law in making its decision.
- Solicit the local VA office to reopen your appeal only if you have new material evidence to back your claims.
- Appeal the BVA or VA decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. You can do this via mail or fax. File Notice of Appeal within 120 days from the date you receive the declination letter.
You don’t have to have a lawyer, but it is quite necessary during the appeal process. A lawyer can advise you whether it would be worth filing an appeal.
As you plan to apply or appeal for VA disability benefits, remember to use the ‘Fully Developed Claim’ to fast-track your application process. The FDC process circumvents backlog issues, but you have to do most of the legwork. The wait may be long, but it will be worth it, once you receive monthly stipends.