As a military Veteran leaving active duty, you may file your disability claim between 90 and 180 days before your discharge. This is called a pre-discharge claim. When assessing how to apply for VA disability, it’s important that you have medical evidence supporting your claim that can tie your injury or illness to your time in service. This can help you receive your benefits sooner. However, you may file a claim at any time depending on the presentation of your injury or illness.
The most important thing regarding a claim is that through medical evidence and a doctor’s supporting documentation, you can show a service-related connection.
Types of Claims
There are several types of claims for disability benefits for military Veterans. They include:
- Original claim. Your original claim in the first claim for a particular injury or illness either caused by or exacerbated by your military service.
- Increased claim. If you are receiving compensation for an illness or injury that’s gotten worse, you may file for an increased claim.
- New claim. A new claim is different from an original claim in that it is regarding a separate and different illness or injury than the original claim. For example, if your original claim is for hearing loss, but you develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder following your separation, this is a new claim.
- Secondary service claim. This is an additional claim for a new disability that is connected to an existing disability for which you already receive compensation.
- Special claim. A special claim is for extenuating circumstances regarding your service-connected disability.
- Supplemental claim. A supplemental claim seeks additional support (and a higher ranking) with additional evidence for a claim that has been denied.
Most Common Claims for Veterans' Disability
All service-related injuries and illnesses are important to each Veteran, but some are more common than others. But just because an injury is common doesn’t mean that you’ll be granted automatic approval. It’s important that you are able to prove a service-related connection that ties your injury or illness to a specific event related to your service.
The most common service-related disability claims are:
- Hearing Loss.
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Scars, General.
- Limitation of Flexion, Knee.
When seeking compensation for VA disability, it’s important to know that many VA disability claims are denied. This can be due to errors in the filing or a lack of medical evidence to support your claim. An attorney that specializes in VA disability can assist you with your appeal and help you receive the benefits that you deserve. The law protects Veterans in these situations. A lawyer can only assist you with your appeal, not an initial claim, and is only paid if you win your appeal. In addition, they cannot by law charge more than 33% of your total claim. This protection was enacted to protect Veterans. It’s important that if you do choose to work with an attorney regarding your VA disability claim that you choose one with experience with VA disability appeals. A lawyer in general practice won’t have the experience needed to help you effectively win your appeal.
Tinnitus is the number one disability among Veterans and it affects at least one in every 10 American adults. Veterans have higher rates of tinnitus than the general public due to the noise levels they encounter while in the service, including gunfire, machinery, and aircraft.
As of fiscal year 2020, more than 1.3 million Veterans were receiving disability compensation for hearing loss, and more than 2.3 million received compensation for tinnitus, according to the Veterans Benefits Administration compensation report. Although these are closely tied injuries, they are considered separate claims.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is the third most common service-related disability claim. It’s estimated that 15% of all Veterans since the Vietnam War receive disability compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, 55% of women and 38% of men serving in the military have suffered from military sexual trauma (MST), which is a leading cause of PTSD.
Scars from burns or injuries account for over 18% of VA disability claims. Scar pain, and the amount of bodily coverage from these scars, are the fourth most common claim for VA disability.
Limitation of Flexion, Knee
Loss of motion in the knee joint due to injury, wear, or surgery related to your time in service is also a very common cause of VA disability compensation.
Ratings for Common Injuries and Illnesses
For every disability claim, the VA assigns a rating percentage that assesses the severity of your injury. This means that although you may have light hearing loss and receive a 10% rating for hearing loss, you may have scars that cover over 144 inches of your body, which warrants a 40% rating. Because an injury or illness may worsen over time, you can make supplemental claims as your condition deteriorates.
It’s also important that you see the correct doctor to assess your condition for each claim. For example, your primary care physician will recommend that an approved mental health professional determine your rating for PTSD. A different specialist will assess your knee injury. It’s important that your medical records reflect the severity of your injury or illness in order to determine your rating. It’s also important so that supplemental claims can be filed over time as conditions may worsen.
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.