Filing for Veterans Disability Benefits
Filing for veteran disability benefits with Veteran Affairs (VA) is a noticeably different process from filing for Social Security disability benefits. Disabilities must be service-connected in order to receive VA benefits, meaning they must be resulting from–or exacerbated by–your military service. In addition, VA benefits can sometimes be granted in part, while Social Security disability benefits are granted entirely or not at all. As of 2007, veterans can enlist the help of an experienced disability attorney for their claim. The process can be trying, but if claimants adhere to the following steps and do not give up, their odds of success are dramatically improved. 1. File your initial disability claim (VA Form 21-526, Veterans Application for Compensation and/or Pension) with your regional VA office. Along with the application, you will want to submit all applicable back-up documents, including discharge papers, dependency records, and medical documentation. 2. After filing, you will receive a Ratings Decision. In the event that your Ratings Decision is unsatisfactory, you may then submit a written Notice of Disagreement within one year. 3. Your Notice of Disagreement will prompt VA to send you a Statement of Case (SOC), which will explain the details surrounding VA's decision on your disability. If you have new evidence you wish to submit for reconsideration, you may do so and the VA office will send you a Supplemental Statement of Case (SSOC). At this step, disabled veterans may also request a hearing to present more information on the case and request reconsideration. 4. If you still disagree with the decision, you may file a formal appeal with the Board of Veteran Appeals (BVA) within 60 days from your SOC (or one year from your initial Ratings Decision). The BVA will hear your case and make a decision, but they are frequently backlogged and your case may take over a year to be heard. 5. Veterans can appeal the BVA's decision at the Court of Appeals for Veteran Claims if they are dissatisfied. 6. Finally, if all of the appeals have been exhausted and the veteran is still unhappy with the final determination, they may take the case to the Federal Court of Appeals.