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Veterans Claims Process For VA Benefits
How do I get VA benefits?
The US Department of Veterans Affairs will compensate veterans on a monthly basis for any disability that was sustained during military service. To apply for benefits, a veteran must complete VA Form 21-526, and submit it to the regional office in their state. Link to form: http://www4.va.gov/vaforms/search_action.asp?FormNo=21-526&tkey=&Action=Search
In order for service connection (the VA calls disabilities that were caused by military service "service connected" disabilities) to be granted, the veteran must show the following:
- an injury in service
- a current disability
- and a link between the current disability and military service.
There are some exceptions to this rule, for example, some conditions are presumed service connected without additional evidence of a link between them. Veterans who served in-country in Vietnam and have certain diseases such as diabetes are granted service connection on a presumptive basis.
PTSD claims require even more evidence to support them. To prove a claim for PTSD you must have, in addition to the above three elements, prove that you were exposed to a stressful event (the VA calls this a "stressor"). See the PTSD section under specific disabilities/special issues tab for more information.
How does the VA Regional Office process a claim for VA benefits?
Complete VA Form 21-526, and submit it to the VA regional office in your state. Follow this link to find the regional office in your state. http://www2.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp?isflash=1
The VA will respond with a letter acknowledging receipt of the claim, and advising the veteran of what information and/or evidence is still needed. The VA has a duty to assist the veteran in obtaining any evidence identified by the veteran.
Once the VA has received all of the information identified, or at the expiration of a certain period of time if the veteran has failed to respond, the veteran’s claim is reviewed by a rating specialist. The rating specialist then reviews the medical records and any other evidence submitted and decides whether to grant or deny benefits, and at what percentage, or level, of compensation.
What if I disagree with the decision?
If you are denied benefits, or if you are granted benefits, but feel that you should have been assigned a higher evaluation, you may appeal the decision. You can appeal by submitting a Notice of Disagreement to the Regional Office that issued the decision.
The decision will then be reviewed at the Regional Office level. If the claim remains denied, it will be sent to the Board of Veterans Appeals in Washington, D.C. If the claim still remains denied, it can be appealed to the Court of Appeals for VA Claims.