Most Veterans file for VA disability benefits while they are separating from military service or very soon after. During the separation process, proper documentation and medical records are often enough to show that the injuries or illnesses one has when leaving service are tied to the time spent in the armed forces. However, many Veterans file much later than at their time of separation. Although all cases are specific to the individual, one underlying truth to the approval of all VA disability claims is that the injury of illness must be service-related--that is, tied to the Veteran’s service. This is called direct causation.
As a Veteran, you may be considering filing for disability benefits well after your separation date from the armed forces. If you’re in the process of determining how to apply for VA disability, you may have many questions like:
- How many years after service can I file for VA disability?
- How do I file a supplemental claim for an additional injury or illness?
- What forms, documentation, and medical records do I need for my claim?
- How do I show direct causation in my documentation?
- How can I document how and when my medical issues impacted my life?
- What do I do if my claim is denied?
- How do I file an appeal?
- When do I need to seek representation for my appeal?
Even though all of these questions may feel overwhelming, you can begin to find the answers you need by choosing the right VA disability attorney. By law, all consultations regarding VA disability are free. According to the VA, if you need help with your claim, it’s important to work with an accredited attorney or other representatives who are authorized to help you.
How Long After Separation Can I Apply for Disability Benefits?
If you’ve waited for a period of time after separating from service to file a disability claim, the biggest obstacle you may face is collecting the medical records you’ll need to show the evidence of your disability. In addition, you’ll need to show how your medical condition is tied to your service. All of your evidence is key in getting the correct rating from the VA that will determine the amount of disability benefits that will be paid to you.
If you’ve waited many years since you left active duty to file a VA disability claim, it’s imperative that you have legal assistance and guidance in providing proper documentation and showing the connection to your service. If you’re in Georgia, finding a VA disability attorney with the credentials and experience to handle your appeal is key to getting the correct rating and the disability benefits that you are due.
There is no timeline to file an initial claim, however, if you’ve already filed and received a denial or partial denial for your claim, you will have time limitations on filing for an appeal or for a supplemental claim.
How Do I File Supplemental Claims for VA Disability?
What is a supplemental claim for VA disability? Simply put, it’s an opportunity for the Veteran to request a review of their case based on new, relevant evidence. A reviewer within the VA will then determine if the new evidence presented is compelling enough to warrant a change to the initial decision.
Forms, Medical Documentation, and Causation in VA Disability
- To file an initial claim, use form 21-526-EZ, the Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits.
- If you’re not ready to file but plan to soon, it’s important to file form 21-0966, an “intent to file”, so that you protect your back pay.
- To file a supplemental claim, use form 20-0995, the Decision Review Request, Supplemental Claim.
There are other types of claims specific to each circumstance. They include:
- Increased claim: An existing service-connected disability has worsened.
- New claim: You’re filing a new claim in addition to your original claim.
- Secondary claim: You have a disability caused or worsened by a primary service-connected disability.
- Special claim: You need special equipment or increased payments due to the nature of your disability.
Because of the complexities of appealing a claim and filing additional claims, it’s important that you have the best representation on your side to make sure you receive the outcome you deserve, including the correct rating for your medical conditions.
How Do I Know I Need a Lawyer?
Many veterans trust the VA system to a fault. The military has taken care of you for your entire career, and rightly so. However, when it comes to the long-term care you deserve for your injury or condition, the system often seems to be set up to say “no,” rather than to say “yes.” A VA disability lawyer can thoroughly and accurately explain your rights to you when it comes to VA disability, and can offer strong legal advice as it pertains to receiving the benefits you deserve when you file an appeal. Only you can decide whether you need legal advice before, during, or after you go through the process of seeking VA disability. Keep in mind that case evaluations are free, and the right VA disability lawyer is paid only if and when you win your appeal.
At Affleck and Gordon, helping Veterans receive their disability benefits is a primary area of practice. Serving Metro Atlanta and the greater Columbus area, the attorneys with Affleck and Gordon care for their veteran clients and assist them with problems that arise with their VA disability appeals.