Are you a Veteran suffering a service-connected disability? You and your family may qualify for VA disability benefits.
However, it’s critical to learn how to apply for VA disability in order to have the best chance of winning the benefits you deserve.
Nearly 3.9 million, or 19.5% of all Veterans receive disability payments, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report. However, VA data suggests that less than half of those who apply for benefits are approved. Many more will receive a disability rating lower than they feel matches their level of impairment.
Taking the right steps at the right time during the application process can help Veterans avoid potential delays, unsatisfactory disability ratings, or outright denials.
The right VA disability lawyers can help guide you through the process of applying for benefits. Should you receive an unfavorable decision, you should strongly consider filing an appeal. An attorney can help you navigate these next steps, in order to maximize your chances of receiving the highest possible benefits amount.
Here’s a step-by-step look at how to apply for VA disability and obtain benefits for your service-connected disability.
Table of Contents:
- Forms you Need to Apply for VA Disability
- Service Reports and Other Information to Have Ready
- Hiring VA Disability Lawyers and Next Steps
Forms You Need to Apply for VA Disability
When you file your claim for VA disability benefits, you’ll need to complete and submit VA Form 21-526EZ—an Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits.
You may submit this application through the expedited Benefits Delivery Discharge (BDD) program 180 to 90 days before you leave the military, though you may file a claim any time after that as well.
You can take this form in person to your closest regional VA center, or mail your application to:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444
You can also apply for benefits online.
When to File a Claim
You may file a VA disability benefits claim for specific types of service-connected conditions, including:
- You’re submitting an original service-connected disability claim.
- New medical evidence shows your disability has worsened and you’re seeking increased compensation.
- You’re filing a new claim for additional benefits, such as special monthly payments or a change to Individual Unemployability status.
- You have developed a secondary disability linked to an existing post service disability.
- You have special needs such as certain vehicle equipment to drive or temporary payments when recovering from surgery.
- The VA denied you benefits but you have new medical evidence proving your disability to submit in a supplemental claim.
Other Forms You May Need
You may need to file additional forms to receive the specific benefits and services to accommodate the specific nature of your disability. These include unique needs such as special adaptations for homes or vehicles, benefits for spouses and dependents, or you suffer PTSD.
- Intent to File (VA Form 21-0966)—You can submit an intent to file up to one year prior to actually filing your claim; this sets a start date for your benefits and could earn you retroactive benefits once you file.
- Statement in Support of Claim for Service Connection for PTSD (VA Form 21-0781)—If you’ve been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and wish to apply for related services and benefits
- Individual Unemployability (VA Form 21-8940 and VA Form 21-4192)—When you’re seeking increased compensation based on unemployability
You can find a complete list of additional forms you may need to file here.
Service Reports and Other Information to Have Ready
In addition to submitting your application and other necessary forms, you’ll need to provide information to the VA that proves your condition is caused or worsened by your military service, such as:
- Separation documents, including DD214
- Service treatment records
- Disability related medical documentation (doctor’s reports, imaging & test results, prescription information, etc.).
- Nexus letter from a doctor showing disability connection to military service
- Personal statements from people who know you on the nature & severity of your disability
- Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ) to help VA support your claim with evidence
You may be asked to undergo an additional medical examination by the VA, known as a Compensation & Pension (C&P) exam. Talk to your VA disability lawyers to learn more about the process of proving your disability.
Hiring VA Disability Lawyer and Next Steps
Should you file a complete and accurate VA disability benefits application and still receive an unfavorable decision, you should strongly consider appealing the decision with the help of a qualified VA disability lawyer.
You may choose to request a higher-level review, file a supplemental claim, or appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
The right VA disability lawyers will help you understand not only how to apply for VA disability, but also how to navigate these next steps.
Should you not receive a disability rating you feel matches your level of impairment, the right attorney will advocate for you. They’ll be able to tell you what rating your disabilities are likely to receive and how to maximize your chances of a higher rating.
Affleck & Gordon’s Veteran clients only pay an attorney’s fee if we win their case. An initial consultation with attorneys at Affleck & Gordon is completely free. Learn more about how we can help you win your benefits today.
If your VA Disability claim was 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 at (404) 990-3945.