Applying for disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can be a long, complex process. There are many rules and procedures a disabled veteran must follow in order to be approved for VA disability benefits, and failing to provide the necessary information could result in a claim being denied.
To begin with, you must meet the qualifications for being eligible to collect VA disability benefits, which are:
- Service in the Uniformed Services on active duty; or
- Active duty for training; or
- Inactive duty training; and
- You received an Honorable discharge; and
- You are at least 10% disabled by an injury or disease that was incurred in or aggravated during active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.
Depending on your disability, you may be able to collect the following benefits:
- Disability Compensation: These benefits are paid to veterans with disabilities that are the result of a disease or injury incurred or aggravated during active military service.
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC): This is a benefit generally payable to a surviving spouse, child, or parent of service members who died while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training, or survivors of veterans who died from their service-connected disabilities.
- Special Monthly Compensation (SMC): This is a higher rate of compensation paid due to special circumstances, such as the need of aid and attendance by another person or a specific disability, such as loss of use of one hand or leg.
The VA Disability Benefits Claims Process
Veterans can submit disability claims online or through the mail. When a veteran files for disability benefits through the VA, their claim goes through a set process to determine if it is valid or not:
Step 1: You receive notice that your claim has been received.
The VA will contact you when they receive your claim. If you applied online, you should see record of receipt in your list of Open Claims within one hour. If you applied through the U.S. mail, allow mailing time plus one week for the VA to process and record receipt of your claim.
Step 2: Your claim will be assigned to a Veterans Service Representative, and the evidence supporting your claim will be reviewed.
The Veterans Service Representative assigned to your case will ask you to provide evidence to support your claim. Your claim must include specific medical evidence, such as medical records or medical opinions, of a current physical or mental disability, as well as evidence of a relationship between your disability and an injury, disease, or event in military service.
The Veterans Service Representative will review your claim and contact you if additional evidence is required. If the VA does not require any additional information, your claim will move directly to the Preparation for Decision phase.
Step 3: After reviewing and evaluating the evidence, the Veterans Service Representative will deliver a recommended decision.
The Veterans Service Representative arrives at his recommended decision pertaining to your claim and submits the required documents detailing that decision. You will be notified if additional evidence is needed to determine your claim.
The recommended decision is reviewed. If there is a no need for further consideration, a final decision is made to either approve or deny the claim.
Step 4: You will be notified of the VA’s decision.
The claim decision packet, includes details of the decision or award, will be sent out by U.S. mail. Allow standard mailing time for your packet to arrive before contacting a VA call center.
Step 5: You can file an appeal if your VA disability benefits claim is denied.
When a claim for VA disability benefits is denied, you have one year from the date of the decision letter to submit a Notice of Disagreement stating your intention to appeal the decision. Before you submit this notice, it is important to get help from an accredited veterans claims attorney who is experienced in handling these types of cases.
Houston VA disabilities benefits lawyer M. Stanley Whitehead has helped many disabled veterans successfully obtain the disability benefits they deserve after an initial denial. He can review your claim, gather evidence to support it, and represent you at the appeals hearing if the need arises. Call 713-993-7311 today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced veteran claims attorney at the Law Offices of M. Stanley Whitehead.