Have you been injured or fallen ill while serving in the military? Has your military service worsened an existing condition? If so, you may be entitled to receive disability compensation benefits from the Veterans Association (VA). To begin receiving benefits, however, you’ll need to file a VA disability claim.
The filing process can be time-consuming and complex, which is why The Law Offices of Michael Hartup will explain how to win a VA disability claim in this blog. If you need further assistance filing your application for benefits, contact us online or call our Jackson, Tennessee, office at (731) 424-5559.
How the VA Makes a Decision About a Claim
It helps to understand how the VA makes a decision about every claim so that you are prepared when you file your own. Generally, the VA wants to make sure that your condition, illness, or medical issue was caused by or made worse by your time serving in the military. To do that, you’ll need to be deemed eligible for disability compensation first.
You may be eligible for VA disability benefits if you meet these requirements:
Both of these must be true:
- You have a current condition that affects your mind or body, and
- You served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training
And at least one of these must be true:
- You got sick or injured while serving in the military and can link this condition to your illness or injury, or
- You had an illness or injury before you joined the military and serving made it worse, or
- You have a disability related to your active-duty service that didn’t appear until after you ended your service
After the VA determines that you have a service-connected disability, they’ll assign you a disability rating — a number from 0 to 100 — that determines how much compensation you’ll receive.
To get the proper amount of compensation you deserve, and to increase the chances that your claim is not denied, you’ll need to submit strong evidence and documents that support your disability claim.
Document Any Medical Issues You Experience
It’s extremely important to document any medical problems you experience while in uniform, and to keep personal copies of those documents whenever you can. It’s your responsibility to provide evidence of your service-connected disability when filing your disability claim, and medical records can help.
Ask for and keep copies of records such as:
- Private medical records
- Test results
- Doctor’s diagnosis
- Health evaluations
- DD Form 214, your Report of Separation
Even if you don’t need them at the time, ask for and keep copies of these records as issues occur. You can request your records later when filing your claim, but keep in mind that such requests can take time to fulfill.
Get Supporting Documentation from Others
You aren’t limited to your medical records from military personnel. You can also gather evidence of your service-connected disability from non-military sources, such as:
- Civilian medical professionals
- Family members and friends
- Fellow service members
These people in your life can provide honest, personal observations of your symptoms and condition.
File Your Application
When you are ready to file your application, you’ll fill out the Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits form, also known as Form 21-526EZ.
If you’d like to file your claim by mail, you’ll send it to this address:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444
Don’t Give Up If Your Claim is Denied
If your VA disability claim is denied, it can be disappointing, but don’t be discouraged. Denied claims are common; a claim can be denied due to lack of evidence, a missed deadline, or a missed medical exam assigned by the VA.
You can appeal a denied VA disability claim within one year from the date on your decision letter. These are the three appeal options you can choose from:
- Supplemental Claim, in which the VA reviews new evidence that you provide
- Higher-Level Review, in which a senior reviewer looks at your case and makes a decision
- Board Appeal, in which a Veterans Law Judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals reviews your case and makes a decision
Each of these three options takes time and requires more paperwork, as well as further documentation, in some cases.
Seek Help from a Qualified Attorney
You don’t legally require an attorney to win a VA disability claim or to file an appeal, but it can help you get a decision in your favor. A veterans disability attorney experienced in the process can ensure your initial claim has strong evidence of your condition. They can also help you meet your deadlines and choose how to proceed should you need to file an appeal.
The Law Offices of Michael Hartup is dedicated to helping veterans in Tennessee. We’re ready to help you file your disability claim so you can receive the compensation you deserve.