Applying for VA Benefits
If you are a military veteran who suffered a service-connected injury, disease or disability, you may be entitled to VA benefits, including free medical treatment and monthly financial compensation.
It doesn’t matter how long ago you served or when you were injured. You put your life on the line for your country and kept your promise to protect and defend this nation. When you did so, our government made a commitment to you.
Veteran’s Disability benefits are tax-free compensation paid to former service members with disabilities resulting from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated during active military service. Compensation may also be available for disabilities or conditions, like PTSD, that developed later as a result of military service.
When to Apply for VA Benefits
Because the process is usually very lengthy, we encourage disabled veterans to apply for benefits as soon as possible. It usually takes at least nine months after you apply to find out whether your VA benefits have been approved. And for most vets, benefits aren’t approved on the first go-round, so it could be years before they kick in.
It’s also important to know the longer you wait to apply, the less money you will receive once your VA benefits are approved. That’s because back benefits are based on your application date, not your service or disability date.
How to Apply for VA Benefits
The first step in applying for VA benefits is to fill out the application at https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/homepage
To apply, you will need the following paperwork:
- DD-214 discharge paperwork from service
- Your medical records or names and addresses of your medical providers
- Names, ages and Social Security Numbers of all your dependents
- Banking information (for direct deposit of benefits)
Plan to spend at least 30 minutes, if not longer, filling out the necessary paperwork.
If you have any questions about the application process, we are happy to answer them or point you to the proper resources. Unfortunately, we can’t submit your initial application for you.
Below you’ll find additional information to help you familiarize yourself with the many steps of the VA disability benefits application process. If at anytime you have questions or need assistance, please feel free to give us a call at (866) 373-1130.
The C&P Exam
About three or four months after you apply for VA benefits, you’ll have what is called a C&P Exam, which is short for compensation and pension.
In that exam, you will be evaluated by a physician at a VA medical center, based on information you provided in your claim.
You won’t receive a decision on benefits at the end of this exam. In fact, you’ll probably wait another four or five months for the VA’s Ratings Decision, which is the initial, official ruling on whether your disability is service-connected and whether you will receive benefits.
It’s not unusual for legitimate VA claims to be denied at this point either because of mistakes the VA made, lack of evidence or improper presentation of the evidence.
The Appeals Process
At this point, it really helps to have an attorney helping you deal with the VA’s bureaucracy and red tape.
Once you receive a Ratings Decision, you have one year to file an appeal called a Notice of Disagreement. If you miss that deadline, you have to start the entire process over again.
Notice of Disagreement
The VA’s Ratings Decision will include the reasons why your claim was denied.
The Notice of Disagreement is our legal team’s opportunity to appeal that decision and offer additional medical records and other evidence to support your claim for disability.
Once we’ve submitted all this new evidence, there’s another waiting period – averaging 243 days – for the VA to issue its follow-up ruling, when either you win all of your case, part of your case, or the VA issues what is called a Statement of the Case.
Don’t be surprised if the Statement of the Case doesn’t turn out in your favor.
Quite often, these decisions are just rubber-stamp denials of the initial denial. It’s frustrating to us and to our clients, but it’s how the VA works.
If you’re denied benefits a second time, we will file a second appeal, called a Form VA9, and request a hearing with a Veterans Law Judge.
Board of Veterans Appeals Hearings
Once we’ve filed a second appeal on behalf of a client, it takes an average of 743 days (nearly two years!) before a hearing date is set.
These Board of Veterans Appeals, or BVA hearings, are conducted at your state’s regional VA office (located in Winston-Salem in North Carolina and in Roanoke in Virginia).
During a BVA hearing, it’s just you, your attorney and the Veterans Law Judge in a room. Your attorney will ask you questions about your service, your disability and your medical history, and you’ll answer truthfully.
The judge will not issue a ruling on the date of the BVA hearing but will instead issue a written decision. It usually takes more than 200 days for the judge’s ruling.
The judge may award you benefits, deny you benefits or remand the case back to the VA regional office for further examination. If that happens, your case will get expedited treatment as you wait for a new Ratings Decision from the VA.
Your VA Rating, which indicates what percentage of your disability is service-connected, will determine how much financial compensation you receive, as well as whether you can get free medical care from VA Medical Centers.
If you are approved for benefits, you may also receive a lump-sum payment, accruing from the date you first filed for VA benefits, and monthly payments for the rest of your life. In certain cases, veterans’ dependents may also qualify for free healthcare at the VA.
After receiving a favorable decision from the VA, you will probably have to wait about three months for your first direct deposit payment.
Increases in Existing Ratings
In addition to helping our clients with their initial VA benefits claims and appeals, we can also assist veterans with increases in existing ratings.
A veteran may apply for an increase in his or her VA rating at any time. This may be necessary when dealing with chronic conditions or progressive diseases that get worse and more debilitating over time. Or, you may have been given an unfair rating when you were first awarded benefits.