We are often asked, “What happens after I file my Veterans Administration Application for Compensation?” After the Veteran’s Administration (“VA”) receives a VA Form 21-526 (Application for Compensation), it sends you a letter explaining the additional information needed to process your claim.
Step One – Information Gathering. Once you receive the letter in the mail, gather all of the requested information, and if possible, also provide details regarding the potential location of records or persons with knowledge that may support your documentation. It is the VA’s responsibility to assist you in gathering the requested information (including, but not limited to, records from private physicians, military medical records, letters from friends, employers, employees, or your spouse or significant other that can help your claim). All of this information should be sent to the name and address indicated on the initial letter you receive.
Step Two – Medical Exam. After the VA has reviewed all of the records and information you provided, the next step may be a medical exam conducted by the VA. This exam is free of charge. You must report for your exam on the scheduled date and time. If you cannot attend the exam at the scheduled date and time, immediately contact the person listed in the letter or your legal representative..
Step Three – Claim Evaluation. After your exam (if an examination was required), a Rating Veterans Service Representative evaluates your claim. Based on the law and the facts of your case, the Rating Veterans Service Representative will either approve or deny your claim.
Step Four – Claim Approval or Denial.
- Approval of Claim. If your claim is approved, the VA will send a letter stating the monthly payment amount you will receive. Along with the letter, you will receive VA Form 21-8764 (Disability Compensation Award Attachment), which states, “A check covering the initial amount due under this award will be mailed within 15 days. Thereafter, checks will be delivered at the beginning of each month for the prior month.” However, depending you particular circumstances, it may take longer.
- Denial of Claim. If your claim is denied, either you or your legal representative can file a Notice of Disagreement with your local VA office. You may use a VA Form 21-4138 (Statement in Support of Claim) to submit the Notice of Disagreement. The Notice of Disagreement must be filed within one (1) year after the date the local VA office sent the original decision that denied your claim. The Notice of Disagreement allows you to request that your file be reviewed a second time by a Decision Review Officer. The Decision Review Officer examines your file anew and can modify the Rating Veterans Service Representative’s decision, including the grant of benefits.
The Formal Appeals Process
Once the VA receives a Notice of Disagreement, it sends you a Statement of the Case that explains the laws, regulations, and evidence relied upon in denying your claim. The VA also sends a VA Form 9 with the Statement of the Case. In the VA Form 9 (Appeal to Board of Veterans’ Appeals), a veteran can request a hearing with the Board of Veteran’s Appeals at the local office or in Washington, D.C. The VA Form 9 must be mailed back before 60 days after the date the VA mailed the Statement of the Case or within one (1) year of the date that they mailed the original decision denying your claim, whichever is later.
If the claim is denied by the Board of Veterans Appeals, the next step is an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Subsequent appeals are filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and to the Supreme Court of the United States.
The time period and process for the VA to review a Notice of Denial depends on the complexities of your particular case. Additionally, any delays in responses to inquiries from the VA will lengthen the process. The shortest period in which a review may be completed is usually around 6 months, but generally it takes longer, with some claims not receiving an initial decision for well over a year from the filing date of the claim.
Along the way, you may wish to have legal representation regarding this sometimes confusing and often arduous process.
Should you wish to learn more about the process of obtaining Veteran’s Benefits, please contact Daniel J. Burns at firstname.lastname@example.org.