Filing a claim for compensation can be a very tedious task indeed. Even if you do complete the online version of the claim at VA's VETS.GOV website you may find that it takes at least 30 minutes just to fill in all the blanks, gathering the required supporting documentation and submitting it to the VA can take much longer and be an exercise in frustration.
Here are a few pointers on how to make the process easier, and how to make sure you get everything right the first time, so you won't have to do it all over again.
Prepare for Filing a Disability Claim
Filing a "Fully Developed Claim" is the fastest way to get a decision from the VA, this simply means that you should submit all of your supporting documentation with your claim for benefits. This documentation includes:
- Medical evidence (doctor & hospital reports), this includes both military and civilian (if any) documentation
- You should also attach any copies of your DD214 or separation documents you may have -
- Dependency records (marriage & children's birth certificates)
If you don't have your records you can get them from the government, see our Military Records Overview page for details.
Remember, if you have any doubt as to whether or not you should submit a document ALWAYS SUBMIT IT! And most importantly, never send the VA original documents, copies will suffice.
In certain circumstances you can apply for benefits before being discharged from the military, please visit our Pre-Discharge Program for Disability Compensation page for details.
Only claim lingering conditions that are the result of acute disabilities or illnesses acquired during your service, claiming other conditions will slow down your decision.
Filing Your Claim
Choose one of three ways:
- Apply online, using the VA's VETS.GOV website, or
- Work with a Veteran's Service Organization. These groups know the intricacies of dealing with the VA and can help you ensure your submission is complete and correct. They will provide free assistance, anyone who charges you for help filing a VA claim is ripping you off.
- Go to a VA regional office and have a VA employee assist you.
After You File Your Claim
OK, you've filed your claim, now you sit and wait. It can take months, but usually the VA will send you a letter when:
- they get your claim,
- they start working on your claim,
- if they need more information,
- around every month or so while they are working on it
- when they make a decision on your claim.
If you submitted a claim online you can check the VETS.GOV website for the status. If you filed through a Veteran's Service Organization you can check your claim's status through them..
The VA may have to contact the DoD for records or if they need more medical information, they may ask you to provide it. The VA may also schedule an examination for you to assess the disabilities you claimed. If the VA requires you to undergo a medical exam to support your claim be sure to show up for the appointment, or risk having your claim delayed by several months. The VA may schedule you for multiple medical appointments depending on how many or what type of disabilities you claim.
Other than attend scheduled examinations, you don’t need to do anything else unless VA sends you a letter saying it needs more information.
Stay on Top of Your Veteran Benefits
Military benefits are always changing. Keep up with everything from pay to health care by signing up for a free Military.com membership, which will send all the latest benefits straight to your inbox while giving you access to up-to-date pay charts and more.