If you are a veteran who has a service-connected disability, you may be eligible for VA disability compensation. This is a monthly tax-free payment that helps you cope with the effects of your disability and improve your quality of life. In this blog post, we will explain what VA disability compensation is, who can apply for it, and how to file a claim.
What is VA disability compensation?
VA disability compensation is a benefit that pays you a monthly amount based on the severity of your disability and how it affects your ability to work and perform daily activities. The amount you receive depends on your disability rating, which ranges from 0% to 100% in 10% increments. The higher your rating, the more compensation you get. You can also receive additional payments if you have dependents, such as a spouse, children, or parents, or if you have certain special circumstances, such as loss of limbs, severe vision impairment, or need for aid and attendance.
VA disability compensation is not the same as VA pension, which is a needs-based benefit for low-income veterans who are either 65 or older or have a permanent and total disability that is not related to their military service.
Who can apply for VA disability compensation?
To apply for VA disability compensation, you must meet the following criteria:
- You must have served in the U.S. military, either on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty for training.
- You must have been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.
- You must have a current physical or mental condition that is at least 10% disabling.
- You must have evidence that your condition was caused or aggravated by your military service. This can be either direct evidence (such as service treatment records or medical opinions) or presumptive evidence (such as exposure to certain hazardous materials or events during service).
How to file a claim for VA disability compensation?
There are several ways to file a claim for VA disability compensation, depending on the type of benefit you are seeking and your personal preference. Here are the main options:
- Online using an eBenefits account. This is the fastest and easiest way to file a claim. You can upload supporting documents, track the status of your claim, and communicate with VA online. To file online, you need to create an eBenefits account at https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/homepage and follow the instructions to submit your claim.
- By mail. You can download and fill out the VA Form 21-526EZ, “Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits,” and mail it with copies of your service treatment records and any other evidence to this address:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444
You can also call VA at 1-800-827-1000 to request a paper form.
- In person. You can visit your nearest VA regional office and file your claim with the help of a VA representative. You can find your nearest regional office at https://www.va.gov/find-locations/. You should bring your service treatment records and any other evidence with you.
- With the help of a professional. You can also file your claim with the assistance of an accredited representative, such as a Veterans Service Organization (VSO), an attorney, or a claims agent. These professionals can help you gather evidence, prepare your claim, and represent you before VA. You can find an accredited representative at https://www.va.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation/index.asp.
What evidence do I need to support my claim?
The evidence you need to support your claim depends on the type and severity of your disability and how it relates to your military service. In general, you should provide the following types of evidence:
- Service treatment records. These are medical records that document your diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of your condition during or shortly after your military service. They can help establish the link between your condition and your service.
- Medical records. These are records from private or VA health care providers that show your current diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of your condition. They can help establish the severity and impact of your condition on your daily life.
- Lay statements. These are written statements from yourself or others who know about your condition and how it affects you. They can provide additional information that may not be captured by medical records, such as how often you experience symptoms, how they limit your activities, or how they affect your relationships.
- Other evidence. Depending on your specific situation, you may also need to provide other types of evidence, such as military personnel records, combat awards, exposure records, buddy statements, etc.
You should submit all relevant evidence with your claim or as soon as possible after filing. The more evidence you provide, the easier it will be for VA to process your claim and make a fair decision.
What happens after I file my claim?
After you file your claim, VA will review it and assign it a priority level based on several factors, such as whether you are homeless, terminally ill, facing financial hardship, etc. The priority level determines how quickly VA will process your claim.
VA will then send you a letter acknowledging receipt of your claim and requesting any additional information or evidence they may need. You should respond to any requests from VA as soon as possible to avoid delays in processing.
VA may also schedule you for a VA claim exam (also known as a C&P exam) if they need more information about your condition or how it affects you. This is a medical exam conducted by a VA health care provider or a contracted provider who will evaluate your condition and write a report for VA. You should attend this exam if scheduled and cooperate with the examiner.
VA will then review all the evidence in your claim file and make a decision based on the law and regulations governing VA disability benefits. They will send you a decision letter explaining their decision and how they reached it. The letter will also include information about how to appeal if you disagree with their decision.
How long does it take to get a decision?
The time it takes to get a decision on your claim depends on several factors, such as the complexity of your claim, the type of benefit you are seeking, the amount of evidence you provide, etc. As of March 2023, the VA is averaging 120-150 days to process all claims and appeals except the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA).
You can check the status of your claim online using eBenefits or by calling VA at 1-800-827-1000.
How do I appeal if I disagree with the decision?
If you disagree with the decision on your claim, you have one year from the date of the decision letter to request a decision review or appeal. There are three options for requesting a review:
- A supplemental claim. This is when you submit new and relevant evidence that was not previously considered by VA.
- A higher-level review. This is when you ask for another review by a senior reviewer who has more experience and authority than the original reviewer.
- A Board appeal. This is when you appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA), an independent part of VA that reviews decisions made by regional offices.
You can choose one option at a time and switch between them if you are not satisfied with the outcome.
You can request a decision review online using eBenefits or by filling out and submitting one of these forms:
- For supplemental claims: Decision Review Request: Supplemental Claim (VA Form 20-0995)
- For higher-level reviews: Decision Review Request: Higher-Level Review (VA Form 20-0996)
- For Board appeals: Decision Review Request: Board Appeal (Notice of Disagreement) (VA Form 10182)
You can also get help from an accredited representative who can assist you with requesting a review or appeal.
I hope this helps you understand how to file for VA disability compensation and what to expect after filing. 😊
(1) How To File A VA Disability Claim | Veterans Affairs. https://www.va.gov/disability/how-to-file-claim/.
(2) How to Apply – Compensation – Veterans Affairs. https://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/apply.asp.
(3) VA Disability Compensation | Veterans Affairs. https://www.va.gov/disability/.