How to File VA Disability Benefits

Department of Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veterans Affairs main goal is to aid military veterans by helping vets transition from the military to civilian life.

The VA provides certain entitlements for every veteran such as medical care, disability claims, home loans, funeral assistance, life insurance, educational benefits, and the list goes on.

Although the VA provides a variety of benefits for many military vets, sometimes the information doesn't reach everybody. Whether it is a failure to communicate or common misconceptions, the information is, at times, distorted and all the while the misinformed veteran is lost in the shuffle. Let’s see if I can help alleviate one of those problems, in particular, va disability compensation.

VA Disability Claim



One of the most common problems with VA disability compensation is interpretation. Sometimes it's confusing, time consuming, irritating, or just flat out frustration. The following are common assumptions about veterans affairs:


"I didn’t think I had to sign up for VA disability compensation. My military doctor told me that I wouldn’t get any money anyway and told me not to bother."

"I thought they automatically rated my VA disability. I didn’t know I had to file a claim."


Both assumptions are incorrect. You absolutely MUST file a claim or you will not be entered into the system. Additionally, even if you don’t believe you have any disabilities you should go ahead and file a claim.

In the worst case scenario, you will receive a zero percent rating, and you will still be eligible for VA hospital benefits. Again, you will still be eligible for VA hospital benefits even if you are rated at zero percent.

Other assumptions:

"Once I file my claim, I should get a rating in a timely matter."


It’s a long process from start to finish. From seeing a counselor, to scheduling medical appointments, and eventually receiving a rating, it just takes a while to see any results. Don’t be surprised if it takes 8 or 10 months after your ETS date or retirement date to receive your results.

Many veterans think that the rating process starts as soon as they file. In reality, VA starts the paperwork when you file your claim, but the actual process of rating you happens after you are out of the military. The reason for this is simple: They want to make sure you are physically out of the armed forces before they begin to rate you.

Another note: The process takes even longer if you wait to file your claim after you leave active duty. On average, it will take about a year and a half for the veteran to receive a rating if they filed after their date of separation. In other words, if you are approaching an ETS date or military retirement date make sure to locate your nearest VA claims office and speak to a counselor.


"If I signed up for Tricare or Tricare Prime then I cannot go see a VA doctor."


This is also false. Your primary Tricare provider is a separate entity from the VA. Look at them as two separate agencies because that’s exactly what they are. Tricare deals with the military side of the house, and VA deals with another part of the federal government.

For instance, my father (who is a retired Army veteran) just recently ran into a chest pain complication and he was not satisfied with the results he was getting through his primary Tricare provider. He was seriously thinking about paying out of pocket to get the situation resolved in the civilian sector.

I asked, "Why don’t you go through the VA?"

He responded, "I thought I couldn’t go through the VA. Doesn’t VA and Tricare talk to each other? Wouldn’t I have to get a referral from my provider in order to be seen by the VA? I don’t want to start this whole process all over again."

Unfortunately, this seems to be a common misunderstanding for many Veterans, causing them to single out one program over the other. In short, Tricare and the VA do not properly convey the right message, and consequently, provide the Veterans with limited information.

Regardless of what a military advisor or doctor may or may not tell you, any veteran who is eligible to have a Tricare provider can also see a VA doctor at the same time. Basically, if there is something one program doesn’t cover (such as eye examinations) then opt to pick the other program. Chances are the other service will cover the procedure or examination.

Active Duty Military

Whether you are in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines, when it comes to the Veterans Affairs Office you are treated as a whole, a military veteran. So, it is important to check up on yourself while you are in the service.

Whenever you have a medical problem, especially an ailment that lasts for a significant about of time, go to a post and/or base hospital. Make sure your visit is documented in your medical records including your treatment and the follow up maintenance. I cannot stress this enough.

I understand that your workplace requires you to be punctual and healthy, but we are talking about the quality of your life outside of the military. Even if you plan to be a 20 year lifer, you will eventually be a civilian. Believe me, you don’t want to be stuck with a bad knee or anxiety issues because you chose the military over yourself.

Think about your children and family and their needs after your military career. Think about yourself. I’ve personally seen over a dozen stories where the veteran had no documentation of military related medical conditions. It’s terrible and they have to pay for it both literally and figuratively. Don’t let that be you.

Va Claims and Common Problems

Filing Your Veterans Affairs Disability Claim

When should you file?

Sometimes your ETS date or retirement date may be unclear because of medical or scheduling issues. If this is the case, file your va claim as soon as you receive your final out date.

However, if you know your separation date well in advance, you should schedule a va benefits appointment with your local VA disability claims office somewhere between 2-6 months before your final out date. For a list a veterans affairs office locations near you visit here.

The reason you want to schedule your va appointment early is because you will be considered a BDD case, which means you will have priority over everybody else who is not in the program. Your results should be finished somewhere between 5-6 months faster than if you are put into another program called Quickstart. The term Quickstart is does not mean your claim will go any faster. In fact, it means just the opposite. It can take up to a year and a half for a Quickstart va compensation claim to process. Again, It is important to note that if your are not in the BDD program, it will take longer to process.

If, for some reason, you are one of those individuals that did not file a claim before you left the military (like myself) there is no reason to be discouraged. Go ahead and file a claim immediately! Although it may take a year or two to eventually see any results, you are no worse off than if you didn't file anyway.

Who knows, you may be surprised to learn that you are ratable and you may just get some money in return! I don't know about you, but a tax-free monthly paycheck for the rest of your life sounds pretty good to me!

Remember with a little bit of time and patience, you WILL receive medical benefits from the VA. It is important to follow up on every transaction along the way and keep in contact with the appropriate personnel in the process. If you don’t know your immediate contact, always go back to your original counselor and they will be more than happy to assist you.

Any questions? Leave a message in the comments below and I’ll be sure to answer you. If I don’t know the answer, I can definitely point you in the right direction.

More by this Author


thevoice profile image

thevoice 6 years ago from carthage ill

great job with this hub thanks

drej2522 profile image

drej2522 6 years ago from Augusta, GA Author

Thanks for stopping by, the voice!

anthony 6 years ago

Is there a deadline for when you can apply/file your VA claim? I've been separated from service for just over 3 years. Thanks!

drej2522 profile image

drej2522 6 years ago from Augusta, GA Author

Anthony ~ You can file your claim at any time. The only criteria is that you were honorably discharged...If it was other than honorable, I would still file because it's all on a case by case basis. Remember, because you are inactive, it'll take about a year to process, but that's better than nothing. Good luck!

anthony 6 years ago

drej2522 - Thanks! It was an honorable discharge, I just seemed to blow it off time and time again because there is always something else going on. Good to hear though and thanks for the great posting!

izettl profile image

izettl 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

great info. I see so many homeless vets and wish they had this info. My husband is a disabled vet and he has done his resaearch to make sure he gets all benefits possible, but it's al ot of red tape.

Jarhead 6 years ago

Make sure its in your medical record book before you leave the military. If its not documented before you leave the VA considers it as it never happened!

drej2522 profile image

drej2522 6 years ago from Augusta, GA Author

Izetti ~ Thanks! You're right, sometimes they don't make it easy. Well, actually, let me take that back. It's easy, but they don't exactly 'advertise' it.

Jarhead ~ Yup, you're correct. At the least, you should get a copy of your original medical records before you leave active duty! Thanks for your input!

hiyadisabled 6 years ago

nice to see that this topic is finally getting some airtime. Keeping hush-hush about it doesn't make it go away... BTW, here's some more info about disabled dating for those interested.

Adult Dating 5 years ago

Great writing, want to see you again with some more information and intrusting topic. I have some info about dating but new in this topic.

jmackg5609 profile image

jmackg5609 5 years ago

Thanks for this hub, this site can definitely tell you the benefits you are entitled to and your site gives the specifics!

Laura 5 years ago

I filed a claim after I separated in 2007, I was denied. Now 4 years later I'm still having issues with my back. I hurt while I was in service and it had been documented each time. I am now going to the VA because I just found out about the VA medical benefits I was entitled to...Is there a chance that I can re-file since I've been denied once?

drej2522 profile image

drej2522 5 years ago from Augusta, GA Author

Laura...alright, I know there is a grace period after you submit your first claim...i believe you have a year to appeal the first claim. But, yes, I believe you can re-file if you have further evidence that supports your medical records. For example, you said you have back issues. If you can prove that your current back issues are related to your documented 'in service' problems then by all means re-file it. I would go to my local VA office and talk to a representative immediately. The worst they can say is no.

M. Tackett 4 years ago

O.K. I am a Retired navy Veteran who is currently disabled due to various factors. I had been seeing a V.A. Councilors , and Doctor for over a year. They told me that the only cost would be for medicines. Now I have been getting billed for past visits and procedures. I am on medicaid because, I guess, That Congress deemed it necessary for us retired veterans to have both Tricare and Medicare. But, the V.A. says that because They can not bill Medicare, I have to pony up the fee's. They want to take my entire military retirement check from me. I tried to explain, apparently to deaf ears, that I believed my problems, both mental and physical, were the result of Military service, but that apparently did not suffice. If any one can help either resolve, or explain, my email address is -

drej2522 profile image

drej2522 4 years ago from Augusta, GA Author

M. Tackett ~ hey there, sorry for the late response. Let me find out some information for ya, and I'll get back to you soon! In the meantime, hang in there.

Joshua 4 years ago

I had filed a disibiliy claim with the V.A. years ago and was given 0% - still going through the same thing after all these years, even worse. Where can I find any help?????

drej2522 profile image

drej2522 4 years ago from Augusta, GA Author

are you trying to resubmit your claim?

Drew 4 years ago

Im separating in July of this year have not started anything for a diability claim, only got the news 2 months ago I was PTS denied. Who can I speak with or go to get started on my disabilty claim? Stationed in Yokosuka Japan. Thanks in advance

paul 4 years ago

I have some medical problems that l sincerely believe are molitawhat can I do? About getting some VA help?

himitheclone 4 years ago

what documents do i need to file with the VA and what if I cant find them all?

drej2522 profile image

drej2522 4 years ago from Augusta, GA Author

Paul~ VA compensation is based on evidence while in the military. You'll have to look through your military records and submit that information to the VA in order to get a rating, which in turn, will give you money. As far as medical problems are concerned, you can go to your nearest VA hospital and get "pulled" into the system.

Himitheclone ~ You need copies of your military records in order to file with the VA. You can't find them you need to to order your records through the St. Louis office.

go here:

Stephanie 4 years ago

Hello just recently ets from active duty army and was sent back three months early from deployment due to chronic reoccurring pancreatitis. I am worried because I now have no health insurance and I feel I am about to have another attack. I was poorly taken care of by my NCOs after getting back to the rear and with a mix of false info and lack of support I etsd without phase on or phase two physicals. Technically my unit should have extended me for this! Mind u I was just evacuated and extended medically three months past my ets date anyways.. I could have probably got extended even more but they were making me go to my own retention speaking to a MSG who is angry because I'm making him do his job! This has been a reoccurring issue that hospitalized me three times during my enlistment and I still have done deployments and fought for my country. I forgot why I originally posted.. I was told I could not obtain a copy of my medical records before I got out unless I paid 50 dollars which I did not have. Is this true? And if I cannot obtain a copy of these records will the va even want to deal with me? Any info appreciated sorry if it's all over the place aggravating subject lol thank you

drej2522 profile image

drej2522 4 years ago from Augusta, GA Author

hey there stephanie...alright, let's see if I can help you out here. First off, you should have been able to get 2 copies of your medical records for free. So, if it were me, I would go to the nearest military (base/hospital) and try to at least get what they call SF 600's. Those are your most recent-up to date medical records and are electronic (meaning they can be printed out electronically). Then I would try to obtain a full record of your original copies which you'll have to do over the phone or through the mail. The reason you have to do this is because the military sends all medical files to Missouri. Meanwhile, you should go to your nearest VA hospital and get registered and get treated for your pancreatitis immediately. Your first 5 years from after your active duty service is free so get that started!

Scott 4 years ago

I am still on Active duty. I have 7 months left till my ETS. I have had numerous health problems including surgery for injuries that occurred in Afghanistan. Where do i go to obtain a copy of my medical records? Will my medical records say that it a service connected disability in them or is that for the VA to decide?

Nick 4 years ago

I got out four years ago but saw a doctor about PTSD symptoms and my doctor said I very much have the symptoms. I also injured my wrist in an IED attack. What are the chances that I get any compensation? I have not been able to get a job because of my high levels of anxiety. Thanks

Dejay 4 years ago

i injured my knee and my hip when i was in the navy i recievedisability for my knee but was turned down for my hip they said it wasn't bad enough. That was in 2008. Well since then theu

Dejay 4 years ago

Continued. Since then they replaced my hip so i put in for compansion and was turned down due to lack of evidence. I askef for a coly of my medical records they cant seem to find them. so what should i do.

eric8128 4 years ago

I filed my VA claim while I was still on active duty, will the VA back pay me from the date that I filed my claim and how long does it take for the VA to start my disability after I am off active duty status?

Stephanie 4 years ago

I am in the process of a MEB Board, and i am also active duty. my husband is also active and will be PCSing in November to Germany. I was wondering if there was any way at all to go with my husband and wait for raitings there ? that is all i am waiting on and if i dont go at the same time that he does i was told that it may take up to a year for me to get a command sponsorship apporved! Does anyone know what i can do ? UGH i am so frustrated. should i talk to the local congress man or even my home of records congress man please any onfpp would be GREATLY appreciated

Doug 4 years ago

I was given a 20% disability rating when I was discharged back in 2000. I was receiving payments from the VA for awhile then they stopped. I thought that was all I was entitled to so stupid me didn't look into anything. Can I still get payments and will they do retro payments?

drej2522 profile image

drej2522 4 years ago from Augusta, GA Author

Yes on both accounts and you should look into it immediately. I would go to your local VA office and tell them the situation.

brandon 3 years ago

I am in the National Guard but was injured in active training and also on drill weekend. My Unit broke a PRL that was on me and made my back condition way worse. how am i too file a claim or am i even eligible for benefits? I am still in and getting my pha soon.

drej2522 profile image

drej2522 3 years ago from Augusta, GA Author

Brandon ~ Yes, you are definitely eligible for benefits. You need to go to a local VA office (usually there is one at a Base or Post but every major city in the U.S. has a VA office). Go ahead and file your claim there and try to speak to a counselor face to face. Do it while you're on active duty so that the process doesn't take as long.

Oh and since you have a back problem, you should also try to apply for a program called Voc Rehab. It helps veterans transition to the civilian workplace. Hope this helps.

bill 3 years ago

i got of the air force in 1964, i suffer from depression which i blame on the air force can i gey v..a. disabilty

drej2522 profile image

drej2522 3 years ago from Augusta, GA Author

Bill ~ The only way you can get VA disability for your depression is if you can prove that the Air Force caused the condition. You need to get a hold of your military records and see if there is anything in there that relates to your depression.

D1978 3 years ago

I am getting med boarded for asthma due to not being able to pass the physical fitness test but my doctor here told me I won't get any disability benefit due to the reason I won't stop smoking is that true?

drej2522 profile image

drej2522 3 years ago from Augusta, GA Author

@D1978 I wouldn't listen to anything the doctor has to say about your benefits. They are not the raters. Go ahead and file your VA disability claim.

John W Tilford profile image

John W Tilford 12 months ago from Northeast of Bloomington, Indiana, USA

Regarding "You absolutely MUST file a claim or you will not be entered into the system. Additionally, even if you don’t believe you have any disabilities you should go ahead and file a claim.

In the worst case scenario, you will receive a zero percent rating, and you will still be eligible for VA hospital benefits. Again, you will still be eligible for VA hospital benefits even if you are rated at zero percent."

'Couple of points: It sounds like you are advising the questioner that they must file the 10-10EZ application for medical benefits to be entered into the VA medical care system. True enough. But then you state "In the worst case scenario, you will receive a zero percent rating" which sounds like a mix between applying for medical benefits and service connected disability compensation. The 'worst case' for either would be a denial, such as for a less-than-honorable discharge, etc. A 'zero percent rating' would only be a result of a service connected disability claim, and is really a success: the VA has approved service connection (usually the most difficult hurdle) but has determined the disability as not severe enough to meet that disability's criteria for 10%. That latter can be appealed within one year or reevaluated at any time - especially common for joint disabilities which typically grow worse as time goes by. A 0% ankle now can easily be a 10% ankle in ten years. As far as VA medical benefits eligibility, one must consider the eight eligibility groups/levels, 50 - 100% being the first/highest (where I am at 60%) and the eighth being no service connected disabilities and income exceeding the needs-based level for the veteran's locality. In both the medical and compensation arenas, I certainly agree with your advice to "When in doubt, apply!" And I also agree, "If unhappy with the result, file a notice of disagreement (NOD) within one year from the date of the decision notice letter!"

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