- The VA benefits claim process takes an average of 103 days.
- Gathering evidence like medical records can speed up the process and improve chances of success.
- Certain conditions like PTSD may change the timeline.
- Decisions can be appealed if necessary.
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Veterans across the country rely on Veterans Affairs or VA benefits for healthcare, education assistance, home loans, and compensation for disabilities incurred during military service. The support of the VA is essential for veterans reentering civilian life, particularly when a disabled veteran needs access to crucial medical care.
To access these benefits, veterans must file a claim and follow it along a series of steps. Let’s go over the typical timeline and the key stages of a VA benefits claim.
Preparing to File Your VA Benefits Claim
When preparing to file your VA benefits claim, you should check your eligibility for various benefits. There is often a 90-day active duty service requirement, but the specifics vary between different types of benefits.
- Generally, you are eligible for disability benefits if you served in active duty, you have a current illness or injury, and that condition is related to your military service.
- For education benefits like the GI Bill, you’re required to have served 90 days in active duty or been injured in active duty.
- For home loans, the usual 90-day requirement applies.
Next, you should gather any documentation that supports your claim. This can include service records, medical records, and supporting statements from family members, friends, or people you served with. You’ll have additional chances to prepare evidence later, but it’s best to get ahead.
The last step before filing your claim is to find a VA-accredited representative to assist you.
Several of the attorneys at Werner, Hoffman & Greig are VA-accredited and will have your back every step of the way.
Filing the Claim
Filing a VA benefits claim is a relatively straightforward process, but there are several different ways to file a claim.
- A Standard claim does not need to include supporting evidence beyond a few basic statements from the claimant. The VA office will gather evidence on its own to support the claim.
- A Fully Developed claim includes supporting evidence along with the claim, making for a faster and more reliable process.
To file by mail, download the appropriate form–for instance, disability claims will use VA Form 21-526EZ–fill it out, and mail it to the listed address.
To file in person, locate the nearest VA office to you and they’ll help you out.
Finally, you can seek out an accredited representative like Werner, Hoffman & Greig for expert help navigating the claims process. This is probably the easiest and most reliable method of filing a claim.
Whichever method you choose, be sure that your claim is filled out completely and accurately to the best of your abilities. The fewer problems with your claim, the faster you will receive your benefits.
VA Benefits Claim Receipt and Initial Review
Once you file your claim, the process will usually take a little over 100 days from start to finish. The initial review step generally takes 12-14 days.
When the VA receives your benefits claim they’ll let you know–either on-screen or in a letter, depending on if you filed online or by mail.
At that point, the claim will enter the initial review phase, in which a reviewer will look over your claim and determine if any additional evidence is needed. If necessary, the claim will be moved on to the evidence-gathering and review phase.
Evidence Gathering and Review
During this phase of your VA benefits claim, the VA will gather additional evidence from sources like:
- Any federal agency, including the military
- VA medical centers, including private facilities that have given VA-authorized treatment
- The Social Security Administration
They’ll also attempt to retrieve any other evidence you mention and will provide a medical team to examine you if necessary. Be sure to attend any requested examinations so you can get your claims approved.
This is also your chance to provide additional evidence that you may have. This step usually takes 12-14 days.
When your claim receives a decision, it’ll usually be based on a certain “rating.” These ratings are expressed as percentages, from 0% to 100%, and are used to determine your monthly benefit payments.
You can check your status on the VA’s website, and they’ll also notify you by mail.
Learn more: How Can Veterans in Florida Claim VA Benefits?
After the Decision: Next Steps
If your claim is approved, within two weeks you should receive information on your new benefits and how to use them. For instance, if you’re approved for health benefits, you’ll receive a Veteran Health Identification Card and a handbook that explains how to access your benefits.
If your claim is denied, don’t panic. You can still file an appeal. Depending on how you want to proceed, you’ll either submit new information, ask for a more senior-level review, or take it to a veteran’s law judge. This can be complicated and frustrating, so be sure to contact a qualified attorney like Werner, Hoffman & Greig to understand your options.
The timeline may be affected by special circumstances. Extreme financial hardships like evictions may qualify you for an expedited claims process, and you can contact your regional VA office for more information.
Certain conditions, especially mental health conditions like PTSD, are more complicated to connect to your military service, and claims for these conditions may also take longer to navigate.
Contact WHG for Assistance Filing a VA Benefits Claim
Returning to civilian life can be complicated enough without the potential frustrations of a VA benefits claim. From the paperwork to the appeals, Werner, Hoffman & Greig is your committed ally in the claims process. We are veterans who understand your situation and have the skills and experience to help. Contact us today to get started. Call us at 1-800-320-HELP.