By Eleanor Hutton
Applying for Veterans Disability benefits can be a long and confusing process. To add insult to injury, many disabled veterans are initially denied the compensation they rightfully deserve. That’s where Joye Law Firm comes in – we’ll cut through the red tape to get you and your family the benefits you deserve, the ones you earned during your service.
Generally, our office does not become involved in claims at the initial filing stages. This is because it is more cost-effective for you to file on your own. In the event you are approved the first time, then there was no need to hire an attorney in the first place. However, if you end up like the thousands of other vets who are either wrongfully denied benefits or get approved, but are not satisfied with the Rating you are assigned, our firm will be able to help you on a contingency fee basis (meaning, you don’t have to pay us anything unless we win your claim).
Getting the Help You Need
We understand that applying for Veterans benefits can be overwhelming. So to help you, we’ve created these simple step-by-step directions on how to file a claim with the VA.
Once your claim has been filed and is pending a decision, we can start to help. Just supply us with a copy of your application documents and contact information. We will contact you frequently to follow up on your medical treatment, medical conditions and to determine if a decision has been issued. Of course, you may feel free to contact us at any time by calling 843-554-3100.
How to File a Veterans Disability Claim:
A Standard Claim can be filed by using the VA Form 21-526, which can be mailed to your local VA Regional Office. You can access the form here; http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-526-ARE.pdf. Then, you can print it and send to your local VA Regional Office.
When filing a Standard Claim, you should include any relevant records that you believe support your claimed disabilities. Additionally, it is important to include supportive documents not held by a federal agency, such as a private doctor’s records. The VA should make a “reasonable effort” to obtain the medical information that you notify them of; however, this can take time.
After the VA receives the claim and attempts to obtain your medical information, they will schedule a medical examination to determine the rating and service connection of your disability. This appointment is called a Compensation and Pension Examination (C&P Exam). After this is done, the VA will issue a Decision and Rating. The general processing time for a standard claim with the VA Regional Office is 18-24 months currently.
Electronic Claims can now be filed. You can now file a claim electronically through E-benefits. You must register for E-benefits if you are electing to file a claim online. To file for E-benefits, click this link: Filing for E-benefits.
The E-benefits website will walk you through the enrollment process and issue a username and password. The advantage to enrolling in E-benefits is that you can continually check on the status of your claim without having to rely on the VA to notify you. You will also be able to tell if your medical evidence was received and when any development has occurred.
Once you have signed up for E-benefits, you can file your Fully Developed Claim (FDC). A Fully Developed Claim is a claim for Service-Connected disabilities, which is completed through the E-benefits website, identifies federal facilities which have records relevant to your claim for the VA Regional Office to obtain (such as Social Security documentation). It is also where you are able to upload medical evidence from non-federal facilities (such as a private doctor’s offices). Please be advised that you must certify that there is no more evidence to submit after uploading the documentation.
If additional evidence is supplied after you have already certified that you have no more documentation to submit, the claim will no longer be processed as a Fully Developed Claim and instead will be processed using the traditional Standard Claim process, which will likely take longer.
Once a Decision and Rating have been issued, it is extremely important that you notify us and supply us with a copy of your decision for our review. Although your condition may have been Service Connected and Rated, it is important to have an experienced Veterans Disability attorney review your documentation to determine if the appropriate rating and effective date were assigned. If not, we can help you appeal this decision.
Getting Veterans Disability Benefits
In order to effectively review your claim, you will need to give us a copy of your application for VA Disability Compensation, a copy of the Decision and Rating Decision, a copy of any appeals filed (if applicable) and any records that you believe are pertinent to your claim.
Additionally, you will likely be asked to obtain a copy of your Claims File or “C-File” from the VA Regional Office once a decision has been made. Your claims file can be obtained by filing a written request through the VA Regional Office’s Privacy Release Office.
Remember, it is important to file your claim for Service-Connected disabilities as soon as possible. That’s because this will likely will affect the date from which you can be paid retro-active benefits once you are ultimately approved for benefits.
If you need some extra help filing your application, give us a call or seek assistance through a non-profit organization. This can assist you with collecting the information and evidence you will need to prove your claim.
We here at Joye Law Firm are truly grateful for your military service. We look forward to assisting you and encourage you contact us with any additional questions or concerns at any time. Just call Joye at 843-554-3100.