Veterans are eligible for disability benefits if they have a physical or mental disability connected to their military service or a pre-existing condition that was made worse by their military service. Benefits provide cash compensation as well as access to medical care.
After you apply for VA disability benefits, patience is key. As of June 2021, it took the VA 134.4 days to make a decision on newly filed claims. However, this number is subject to variables such as:
- The type of claim you file
- How many service-connected disabilities you’ve listed and the severity of your overall condition
- How difficult it is to obtain the evidence needed to evaluate your claim
Processing Your Initial Application for Disability Benefits
Initial applications for VA disability benefits can be filed online, by mail, or in person. The general process for evaluating an initial claim is as follows:
You’ll be notified when your claim is received by the Regional Office, either with an on-screen message, an eBenefits web portal notification, or a mailed letter.
A VA representative will look over your application and determine if any additional evidence is needed. The VA has a duty to assist veterans in preparing their claims for review, which may include requesting medical records, service treatment records, personnel records, and VA treatment records, as well as scheduling medical examinations.
After all of the necessary evidence has been gathered from you, your healthcare providers, and any government agencies, the VA will review your application and make a decision.
Notification and claim completion.
The VA will prepare a packet that explains your claim decision and send it to you via the U.S. mail. This should occur within seven to 10 days of the decision.
After you’ve submitted your application for disability benefits, you do not need to take any additional action until you’ve been contacted by the VA. If you receive a letter asking for more information, answer it promptly. If you are notified that you must attend a C&P exam, be sure you do not miss your appointment. Your claim will be automatically denied if you do not attend your C&P exam.
You can check the status of your VA claim at any time. This can be done online or by calling the VA’s national toll-free phone number at 800-827-1000. The same methods can be used to check the status of any other VA benefits you’ve applied for, including pension benefits, automobile or clothing allowance claims, Aid & Attendance benefits, and GI Bill claims.
Appealing the Decision
If your initial application for VA disability benefits is rejected, do not give up. Many claims that are initially denied are won on appeal. You also have the right to appeal if you’ve been given a disability rating that you believe does not reflect the seriousness of your condition.
The VA’s decision review process gives you three options: a Supplemental Claim, Higher-Level Review, or Board Appeal. A Supplemental Claim requires additional evidence; a Higher-Level Review lets a senior-level reviewer take a look at your case to determine if the decision has an error or is based on an incorrect interpretation of the law; and a Board Appeal is a review of your case by a Veterans Law Judge at the Board of Veterans' Appeals (BVA) in Washington, D.C.
A veterans benefits lawyer can help you evaluate your claim and determine which appeal option is most likely to be successful. There is no charge for legal representation unless you win your appeal, so there is no need to let cost concerns keep you from building the strongest possible case. An evaluation of 2020 appeals revealed that 40.9% of appeals were approved with a lawyer while just 26.2% of appeals were approved with no representative—a statistic that proves seeking legal guidance is the smart choice.
Do You Need to Speak With a Veterans Benefits Lawyer?
If you need to speak with an experienced veterans benefits lawyer, please contact us online, or call our Virginia Beach office to schedule your free consultation. We have offices throughout Virginia, including Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk, and Suffolk.