Applying for disability benefits through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) can seem like a daunting process, especially for someone who has only recently left military service. Dealing with a disability can be difficult in its own right, without needing to navigate bureaucracy to get the benefits you deserve. Fortunately, however, the application process is not too difficult to understand, provided that you follow all the necessary steps.
Step 1: Getting Your Documents Together
Before you can submit an application for VA disability benefits, there are a few documents you are going to need to put together. This includes getting the appropriate form (which can be found here), obtaining your most recent tax return, and getting the Social Security numbers for yourself and any dependents in your household. You will also need any information on any insurance you already benefit from, including Medicare or a private insurance plan. You can either apply online, over the phone, in person, or through the mail, depending on what method works best for you.
Fortunately, one thing you do not usually need to worry about is obtaining your medical records. The VA will have all medical records from any treatment you received during your military service, and so long as you have the contact information for your medical providers, they will obtain your records on your behalf. The only complication is if you are applying for benefits a significant amount of time after your service ended, in which case obtaining the requisite medical records may be more difficult.
Step 2: Evaluating Your Claim
If your application has been accepted and all of your paperwork is in order, the VA will begin the process of evaluating your claim. Under ideal circumstances, this should take no more than a week, though there may be delays. If all goes well, you will receive a phone call from the VA welcoming you to the program, at which point they will send you additional information about your benefits and schedule your first VA appointment.
However, the VA may decide they require more information before they can properly evaluate your claim. In this case, they may require you to undergo an additional examination, known as a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam. During this exam, they will evaluate your medical condition and conduct an interview to determine whether you qualify for VA benefits. Not everyone goes through a C&P exam, and those who undergo it have no better or worse chance to get VA benefits than anyone else.
Step 3: Obtaining Benefits, or Appealing the Decision
If you are approved for VA disability benefits, you will be assigned a disability rating in the form of a percentage. The higher percentage of your disability, the greater the benefits you will receive from the VA. However, anyone with any disability rating is entitled to care through the VA medical system.
If you are denied VA disability benefits, that is not necessarily the end of the road for you. The VA has an extensive appeals process you can use to get your claim reevaluated or submit new evidence of your disability. However, going through that process can be difficult, and you should not do so without legal guidance to get through the system.
The attorneys of Sullivan & Kehoe place a special focus on assisting disabled veterans. Our veterans’ disability lawyers are still available for remote consultation on your legal issues. Call our office at (800) 395-7830 to schedule a consultation in our New York City, Garden City, Kings Park, Riverhead, or White Plains office, or visit our contact page.