We would like to share with you our understanding of the VA disability application process based on our personal accounts having recently retired. First, there are several different types of disability claims. The disability is based on the disabilities that were present when one entered the military and were made worse when serving, any disability that may have occurred while serving in the military, or any disability that rose immediately after serving. There may be also some special service that you could file a disability claim.
One type of claim is Pre-Discharge. Any man or woman that served in the military and have less than 180 days of leaving and/or retirement from the active duty military or full time National Guard members may file a claim for disability.
There are also Claims based on Disabilities that were present before entering the service. Or Pre-Service Disability. The military is very rigorous, however one may still enter the military with a known disability. And, if that disability becomes worse from serving, the Veterans Affairs (VA) may be able to compensate you. This is known in the medical world as aggravation. You are usually compensated due to the amount of aggravation.
One may also file a claim for disabilities that occur while in service with the military. These are claims that are filed for any disability that was occurred while serving in active military and in the line of duty. Anyone who was negligent on themselves or had any wilful misconduct, or were abusing alcohol are drugs are not able to file a claim for disability with the VA.
Another type of claim is Post-Service. This type of claim would be file for anyone that had a disability that are military service-related, even though the disability rose after serving. There are different classifications of disabilities that can be based depending on location and circumstances of the service or just by military service period.
One can also file a claim based on Special Circumstances. You would file this claim when a disability is present, but it may not be absolutely based on in service events in the military. However, the disability does have to be service related in order for you to receive assistance and file the claim. This can be used when a Veteran’s surviving spouse may want to file so that they can receive payments for service connected disabilities or they might also need more compensation for regular aid.
Now all of these different types of claims can fall under another classification afterward. Original Claim, Reopened Claim, New Claim or Secondary Claim. All of these are different in the way that they are handled.
An original claim is the very first claim that you file for monetary compensation from the VA. This can be filed by anyone who is service, a veteran, or any survivors of a deceased service member. A reopened claim is a claim that you field for benefits and they were not able to be granted and the decision is final. That means that file is over a year old and has yet to appeal. The VA is not able to reopen the claim unless there is new material evidence available and is it received by the VA. New Evidence is the evidence that the VA never has seen and was not considered in connection with claim that one filed for benefits. Material evidence is related to the issue and has a direct effect on the issue. A New Claim is a claim one files for befits that may or may not have ever been filed before. The decision is generally made on all new evidence. A couple of reasons one may file for a new claim is for an increased disability evaluation, any monthly compensation that one may receive under special circumstances, or the service member or individual unemployable. The new claim is different from a reopened claim in a decision on the filed claim is totally it’s own or independent of any evidence that has previous been submitted relating to an earlier claim. You may also have a secondary claim. There claims are filed for disabilities that came about as a result or made worse by another serviced condition. It is known that one disability may cause another disability by being worsened from active service military.
To receive compensation for a disability there are different evidence requirements that required. You can take all evidence related to the disability and you are required to submit all evidence that you have or provide information that good enough to enable the VA to be able to obtain all the evidence on your behalf. You must submit an application and also give the VA your discharge papers or separation papers, any treatment records that you may have from during your service, and any medical evidence from a doctor or hospital.
The VA has a couple different areas where your claim might fit. You can have a Fully Developed Claim or you can have a Standard Claim. The Fully Developed Claim was established by the VA to be able to quickly process any claims certified by the service member or anyone representing them. In order for you to be part of the Fully Developed Claim Program, you have to obtain the proper treatment and your personal records and submit them to the VA. If the VA concludes you claim before the one year date is it is filed, you will still have the remainder of that one year period to submit any additional evidence or service treatment records that you may be able to obtain and support your claim. During a standard claim the VA will gather and get any records that pertain to your claim. You must be able to identify and authorize the VA to obtain any of these records on your behalf.
There is also the Veterans Claims Assistance Act that defined what the VA is responsible to obtain and document on behalf of a veteran filing a claim. The VA is responsible for getting records from federal agencies. This could be documents from the military, the Social Security administration, and/or medical centers. The only things that the veteran is responsible for is obtaining any records supporting your claim that is not federally operated. That could mean state records, private doctors, and/or former employers. The VA is capable of helping to assist you in getting these records. You are also responsible for getting all the required information needed by the VA so that the records needed can be requested on your behalf.
Now the only thing left to do is apply which you should start by going to http://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/apply.asp. There are several methods to apply for disability depending on the type of benefits that you seek. You can apply online use the VA’s eBenefits account. You may also print off, fill out, and mail the form to your regional VA office. You may also go to a regional VA office and have a VA personnel assist you. You can also work with an agent or representative that is accredited. You must make sure to have a full understanding of what is needed on your part for the file to be claimed and assistance is available online. When you apply online through their eBenefits section you have the option to upload any available evidence that you have and file a Fully Developed Claim. Some people may need time in order to file the claim and as long as you gather the information and support it within one year of initially signing up then the VA will recognize your start date of your claim for benefit purposed; as long as you get the required documentation in on time. However the processing time is much shorter if you submit your evidence with your claim and you will be able to get a decision much quicker. You may also go to the VA’s office and the representative will walk you through filing your claim via paper. Like previously stated you can also submit your claim via the mail. If you have records that are necessary or show the disability then you should submit these with your claim. There are also several different forms available online that will get you documents that were written by a non-VA medical facility and those forms will make it possible for the VA to obtain those health records. The VA encourages you to file a claim for disability before leaving the active service through a program entitle, pre-discharge program. There are several different forms that are required to apply for disability benefits and they are available online as well. There are forms for pre-discharge, the application, Death Pension, Accrued Benefits, and forms for surviving parents of a service member.
We said it before and we will say it again. Get help. Many of us here who have recently retired got help from a Veteran Service Organization. They really make a difference. There is an online Directory of Veteran Service Organizations that is offered as and informational service by the Office of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and can be accessed at any time. This directory is provided to help Veterans seek important information and resources while preparing for or going through the VA Disability Claims Process. Within the directory you can find resources for organizations that deal with specific disabilities, specific nationalities, religious affiliations and so much more. It is an invaluable resource that should not be overlooked. There is very strong criteria involved for an organization to be listed in this directory so you can be assured that the information within is completely legitimate, free of cost and Nationally/Congressionally recognized. The Directory of Veteran Service Organizations can be accessed online any time by visiting the following web address: http://www1.va.gov/vso/ We have compiled a list and created links to VSO pages which can be found here https://www.microhealthllc.com/veterans-central/veterans-service-organizations/
To learn more about the different types of claims, please go to http://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/types-claims.asp. To learn more about the VA disability application process please visit http://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/apply.asp. When you are ready to calculate your disability rating percent or your compensation (monthly pay) please navigate to the menu above to “Veterans” and select “Veterans Calculators”, then choose the calculator that you are looking.