To get VA compensation, you must prove to Veterans Affairs that you are a qualified service member or a family member eligible for compensation. The VA claims process requires you to submit an application, records, and supporting statements.
The VA may then give you a disability rating based on the severity of your condition, which can influence your compensation.
On average, it takes roughly 133 days for the VA to make a decision about a disability claim. So, you may want to start your application as soon as possible. Since you will need time to gather everything, you can submit an Intent to File or start an online application.
The Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits is VA Form 21-526EZ if you want to file by paper. Or, you can apply on the Veterans Affairs website to submit online.
You will need your DD214 or other separation documents. The other documents you submit should be evidence that you are a disabled veteran or qualifying family member. The VA will look for proof of:
· Your current disability and how the physical or mental condition decreases or eliminates your ability to do everyday tasks and meaningful work.
· How your military service caused the disability, such as an injury, illness, or event that was the result of serving.
The VA considers service treatment and medical reports – like X-rays and test results – related to your condition to determine your qualifications and disability rating. Your disability rating impacts your payment amount. Compensation tends to be more for higher ratings, as you are more likely to be significantly affected.
VA and private medical and hospital records can show if your condition has gotten worse since it first developed. You can also submit statements from your family, friends, and coworkers who have information about how the condition happened and if it has become worse.
Some additional documents you may need include the following:
· Authorization to Disclose Information to VA to authorize the release of your medical records.
· A Statement in Support of Claim for Service Connection for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder if you have PTSD.
· An Examination for Housebound Status or Permanent Need for Regular Aid and Attendance if you or your spouse need additional benefits for aid and attendance.
· A Veteran’s Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability and A Request for Employment Information in Connection with Claim for Disability Benefits if claiming your disability makes you unemployable.
However, the VA may not need evidence under certain situations, such as developing a chronic condition within one year of discharge, after contact with hazardous materials, or as a POW.
Accredited attorneys, claims agents, and Veterans Service Officers (VSO) may help you file a claim or an appeal. These professionals have training and certification in the VA claims and appeals processes. They must pass an exam and background check, and they typically take continuing education courses to stay current on the latest claims information.
Although a VSO or accredited representative may have fees for helping with the application, they cannot charge you until after the VA makes a decision. You should ask about the costs upfront, and you can challenge the attorney if you believe the fee is too high.
You can visit the government’s eBenefits website or search the VA Office of the General Counsel’s list to find a VSO or accredited representative.