Paperwork Steps in Filing a Claim for VA Disability

Older couple discussing

When filing for VA disability, a claimant learns a new vocabulary. 

Military Veterans are used to acronyms, and filing for VA disability has no shortage of them. When starting the paperwork on your claim, there are several important terms and acronyms to know. In general, the Veterans Administration spends a considerable amount of time assisting Veterans with disability benefits. They are not generally adversarial, and work closely with you to help you receive the care that you need. At the same time, many VA decisions are denied because of incomplete information. With the help of your physician, the VA, and the right disability attorney–should problems arise along the way or if there are errors to be uncovered and corrected–you should be able to receive the disability benefits that you deserve. 

This primer is a starting point for the new terms you’ll learn as you navigate your VA disability claim. From determining eligibility, to the paperwork you’ll need along the way, we hope to help you along the way.

Initiating a Claim

When you and your loved ones are at the point of discussing a potential claim for VA disability, the first thing to do is see if you are eligible. 

Am I Eligible?

You may be able to get VA disability benefits if you have an illness or injury that was caused by an in-service event, conditions, or exposure. You may also receive benefits if you were injured on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training, and have a disability rating for your service-connected condition. You must also be able to prove the connection between your illness or condition and your military service. If you had a condition before you joined the military that was made worse by your time in the service, that injury or condition can also be compensated under VA disability. In addition, if you have a disability determined by the VA to be related to your active-duty service that didn’t appear until after you separated from the military, you can file a post-service disability claim. This can be proved with strong evidence, including lay statements and doctor opinions.

What is a Nexus Letter?

A Nexus Letter is written by a qualified medical professional and could be your primary care doctor or an independent medical examiner. This letter shows the direct link between your illness or condition and your military service. They may also give an opinion on how your other impairments have secondary connections to your directly-connected impairments. It is important to address each claim in separate Nexus Letters. For example, if you have an injured knee, but also COPD, you will need two Nexus Letters–one for each claim. 

Your NEXUS Letter should contain specific criteria to help your claim. The letter can be short, but include all necessary information regarding the facts of the claim. Your doctor should clearly summarize how your injury or condition relates to your time in service. A specialist in your area of medical disability should write your letter, if possible. An orthopedist, for example, may be best qualified to explain your knee injury. Make sure that your physician has all necessary medical records to bolster your claim, so that they can include that evidence in the letter. It’s important that your physician also includes the onset date of your injury or condition. Any details from past medical records that your doctor can use will help.

What is a DBQ?

Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQ) are some of the most important forms that you’ll become acquainted with when filing for VA disability. The DBQ is designed to help expedite your VA disability claim and so that the VA can properly understand the connection between the Veteran’s injury or condition and their claim that it is service related.There are more than 70 different DBQs, each for a specific group of illnesses or conditions. Here at Affleck & Gordon, we have a database of almost all 70 DBQ available. The average DBQ is seven pages long. A properly filled out DBQ can be vitally important in obtaining the percentage ratings that you deserve.

The Nexus letter and the DBQ forms go hand-in-hand. While the Nexus Letter is needed to establish the service connection, a DBQ can be critical in establishing the proper rating percentages that a veteran deserves. 

C&P Exam

After you file your claim, you may be called to have a C&P exam, also known as a compensation and pension exam. The VA states that this exam helps properly rate your level of disability. If your medical evidence, coupled with a strong Nexus Letter from your physician, is considered sufficient evidence, then that may mean that a C&P exam isn’t required. 

If you’ve left active duty military service and are filing a post-service claim, it may be more difficult to get a proper rating for your VA disability. The further away you are from duty, the more difficult the link between your service and your injury or condition are to prove. The VA can use a number of reasons they have in their toolbox to deny your claim. For example, the VA frequently will say that a Veteran’s condition did not manifest within service duty.  And even though the VA is considered to be Veteran-friendly when it comes to providing disability benefits, an attorney can help strengthen your case, especially if errors have been made along the way in terms of evidence development-that need to be corrected. With proper documentation and proper exams, you can counter any potential rejection from the VA.

If you’ve been denied, an experienced disability attorney can help. Here at Affleck & Gordon, we offer free case evaluations and have worked with military Veterans for decades. We can help you, too.

What conditions are covered by these benefits?

You may be able to get VA disability benefits for conditions such as:

  • Chronic (long-lasting) back pain resulting in a current diagnosed back disability
  • Injuries to the back, knees, feet, hips, and shoulders
  • Agent Orange exposure
  • Breathing problems resulting from a current lung condition or lung disease, including COPD
  • Hearing loss, tinnitus
  • Scar tissue
  • Loss of range of motion (problems moving your body)
  • Ulcers
  • Cancers caused by contact with toxic chemicals or other dangers

You may also be able to get VA disability benefits for:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

At Affleck & Gordon, helping Veterans receive their disability benefits is a primary area of practice. Serving Metro Atlanta and the greater Columbus/Phenix City area, the attorneys with Affleck & Gordon care deeply for their clients and assist them with problems that may arise with their disability claim. 

If your VA Disability claim has been denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck & Gordon can help. We’ve been helping people in Georgia just like you for decades. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us (404) 990-3945.

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