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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.
"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.
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