Applying for Veterans Disability Benefits

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides tax-free monthly compensation for individuals with service-connected disabilities. If your condition affects your ability to work, these benefits can help you provide for you and your family.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for VA disability benefits, you must have served in active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training and have a disability rating for your service-connected condition. Your condition must fit one of the following criteria:

Pre-Service Disability Claim.

You had an illness or injury before enlisting and your military service made the condition worse.

In-Service Disability Claim

You developed an illness or injury while serving.

Post-Service Disability Claim

You developed an illness or injury after serving, but your condition is caused by your military service.

Disability benefits for veterans cover a wide range of physical illnesses or injuries such as back pain, traumatic brain injury (TBI), breathing problems,   hearing loss, PTSD, depression, anxiety, and many other conditions.

You may be determined ineligible for benefits if you received a dishonorable discharge, discharge for bad conduct, or any discharge other than honorable. However, you can apply for a discharge status upgrade or attempt to access benefits through the Character of Discharge review process.

Evidence Needed to File a Claim

To apply for benefits, you must complete VA Form 21-526 (the Veteran’s Application for Compensation and/or Pension). The exact evidence you need to support your claim varies based on the type of claim you wish to follow, but typically you need to provide:

  • Your DD214 or other separation documents;
  • Records of medical treatment you received for the claimed condition during your service;
  • Any military personnel records you have that relate to your disabling condition;
  • All private medical records related to your disability such as X-rays or other test results and doctor reports from a non-VA hospital or other treatment center;
  • Letters from people you served with, family members, friends, clergy members, or law enforcement that describe your disability and how it developed (if you don’t believe your condition is adequately described in your service records);
  • Information about additional related health records you don’t have available but the VA can request on your behalf from a federal facility such as a VA medical center or clinic;
  • Copies of marriage certificates and divorce records, along with birth or adoption records for any dependent children.

You may also be required to complete a VA medical exam before your application is approved. You will be notified if this step is necessary.

Standard Claims vs. Fully Developed Claims

There are two types of disability claims you can file. In a standard claim, VA officials take responsibility for gathering much of the necessary evidence on your behalf. In a fully developed claim, you gather the evidence yourself. Fully developed claims are approved more quickly than standard claims, due to the extra time the VA must spend evaluating a standard claim.

Receiving a Disability Rating

When your application is processed, you will receive a disability rating based on the severity of your condition, and it’s used to determine your compensation. Ratings are given from 0% to 100%. A rating of 0% means that your condition is considered related to service, but it does not qualify for compensation at this time. If your rating is 30% or higher and you have a spouse and/or dependent children, you will receive an additional payment. If you’re reading is 70% or higher, that entitles you to special additional services, such as free nursing home care at one of the country’s VA-run nursing homes.

A combined ratings table is used to assign your rating when you have more than one disabling condition. You can apply to have your rating upgraded if your condition worsens. The VA also reserves the right to reexamine your rating at any time.

Farr Law Firm Can Help Veterans Access Disability Benefits

VA disability law changes frequently, which can make it difficult to determine how to best prepare your application for benefits. Let the Farr Law Firm assist you in filing your VA disability claim or getting a higher disability rating.

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