VA Benefit Resources Guide
The Veterans Administration (VA) disability compensation program can be a very confusing and hard to navigate system, full of holes to fall into and even more people ready to take advantage of you. That’s not to count the VA itself that seems ready and waiting to deny, delay, and complicate your process before you even get started. This is one of many resources put together to help you navigate the process and bring a little light to the darkened maze you are about to navigate, or maybe already lost in. Hopefully this resource guide will shed some light on the path and maybe even help you send up a flare for some help along the way to with a few good agencies to help you.
Below we have put together the resources in a top to bottom approach, the first being a quick guide with tips for those just getting out the gate. The next portion is some mid way resources such as agencies to contact for some help, online locations to track your claim, and some groups to help support you along the way. The next portion is for those who have landed in no mans land, the appeals part of the process. We added some caution tips here and how you might be able to navigate the process and some real life expectations on timelines and requirements. We end the resources with those who have gotten their benefits and are looking to try and get them increased. We have also added some resources in here to just help you with your disability as well, outside the process of getting benefits. There are a lot of groups and people who just want to help.
The first and most important step you can take is to set your expectations to a realistic level. This process is slow, you will probably be denied multiple times, there is a lot of frustrating redundant steps, you will probably get less than you expect at first, and there are no fast track solutions. Now, with that being said, there is hope, a process, and the end is worth the pain to get through it.
Here are a few things you should do before you ever get to the form to file.
- First is visit the VA guide on how to file a claim.
- Determine if you qualify for the VA claim before you go through all the work. If your unsure if you qualify, then submit a claim and let them tell you otherwise. You can check their eligibility guidelines here.
- Gather all your medical records relating to the disability claim your filing. This includes yours military medical records, Line of Duty documents, Personal Medical Records, and any State Medical records. You can find links to some of these resources location in the Extra Resources Tab.
- If you have witness statements, mission reports, or other evidence of the injury be sure to get copies of these as well for your evidence. This is an important step for supporting documentation to PTSD cases, as these can be a hard fight sometimes.
- If you have NOT been seen for the injury in a civilian doctor, get started on that treatment as soon as possible and establish a solid treatment record for that specific injury.
- Make a timeline of your service and injury, identify dates and locations to the best of your ability. Map out your entire claim, connecting your evidence to your claim timeline such as witness statements and etc. Provide adequate information, but try to avoid providing information that is useless or counter productive to your claim. However, always be honest and NEVER lie about the information you provide.
Disable American Veterans
Navigating The Appeals Process
The appeals process has changed in the recent years allowing for a more streamed line process. This new process has allowed more control over the veterans appeal and in many cases speeding the process along. The new process allows for three options to be filed in the appeal.
- Supplemental Claim
- For new and relevant evidence
- Higher-Level Review
- A more senior reviewer to look at case.
- Board Appeal
- Veterans Law Judge reviews case
Based on the complexity of the claim and need for appeal, the veteran can choose the route in which they would like to submit the appeal. Each one has its various time restrains, with the Board Appeal being the longest. There are some less common appeals such as contested, insurance, and fiduciary claims. You can find more information on appeals types here.
Before you launch into the process of appeals, you should take a few foundational steps to be properly prepared. This will help the appeals process go smoother and increase your chances for a positive outcome. The stages of preparedness involves collecting your evidence, choose your representative, and develop a plan.
When you are collecting your evidence you need to consider two approaches, old evidence and new evidence. When considering old evidence, you need to round up copies of evidence that was already submitted. Sometimes evidence goes missing or doesn’t make it to the claim. This would be a critical time to resubmit that evidence along with any new evidence you have. However, you can only submit evidence if you are doing a supplemental claim. A few evidence tips are…
- Collect all medical records, from when you first submitted your claim to the current time. Be sure the records are specific to the parameters of your claim.
- Continue seeking treatment for your injury, and inquire with your doctor for a current medical statement regarding your claimed injury.
- If new witnesses or mission evidence has surfaced that supports your injury, submit witness statements or mission reports.
- Be sure all evidence is submitted in a chronological order and if it helps to illustrate your claim, submit a evidentiary timeline.
If your planing on seeking representation from an attorney do your due diligence on the attorney reputation and abilities. If you are planning on seeking assistance from an organization, be sure they are an accredited veterans service organization. A few tips on using a representative…
- Do your research on the organization or attorney. Be sure they have a good representation and ability to handle your case.
- Be upfront with your representative and tell him your expectations before you sign any agreement.
- Follow up with your representative on a monthly basis at minimum.
- A certified VSO will not charge you for their service, however they tend to carry a higher case load. An attorney will take a portion of your settlement, though they tend to have lower case loads.
If you have all your evidence and plans in place, then you are ready to move to the next step.
To file an appeal you can either do so online, by mailing paperwork, or by going through a representative. If you are planning on using a representative, they will have their own process to follow and you should consult with them on next steps moving forward.
For Supplemental Claims (4-6 Months):
If you plan to file by mail, you will need to complete the form that has been sent to you in the decision letter. if you no longer have the form you will need to download it. Once you have completed the form, mail it back to the VA with all the evidence you have gathered.
You can file online through the VA by following the instructions here. You will have to electronically scan all of your evidence to submit it this way, however it is the fastest way to submit an appeal.
For Higher-Level (4-6 Months):
You wont be able to submit any new evidence with this route, however if you feel the evidence you have already submitted was sufficient, then having a senior representative review your case may be the route to go. This is generally the route to take if you don’t have any new evidence to submit and don’t feel you have a case to argue in a Board Appeal.
To file the appeal you can do it via the mail in form. While filing the form you can request a call from the senior representative. This might help your claim, but it will also slow its processing.
For Board Appeals (One Year or More):
You have three options when it comes to board appeals. Each one has an advantage to a specific scenario, however the timeline on each options varies. To request a board appeal you must complete a request form. Your options are:
- Direct Review
- Takes about a year
- Cannot submit evidence
- No Hearing
- Additional Evidence
- Takes more than a year
- Can submit new evidence
- Request Hearing
- Takes more than a year, sometimes several years.
- Can submit new evidence
- Will have hearing with judge.
- Direct Review
Once you have filed your claim the hard part begins. This is the waiting period that you have to be diligent on following up with your representative or by monitoring your status online. The VA offers a wealth of information and options you can use to follow up on your status. Here are a few tips to follow during the waiting period…
- Follow up on your status on a monthly basis if not more often. You will receive occasional updates with requests or scheduled appointments.
- Be ready to provide information on request.
- Continue your treatment plan from your doctors and maintain all documentation.
- Be patient as it can take years to complete a Board appeal.
- Be ready to file an appeal once you receive a board decision. You can file an appeal multiple times, and it might take a few attempts to get to your goal.
Good luck on your appeal!