I’ve stressed numerous times throughout this blog just how important supporting documents are when submitting a VA Disability Claim.
No evidence = a denied claim. Period.
To ensure that your claim is successful, compiling and submitting the necessary supporting documents is essential.
There are different kinds of supporting documents; some everyone will need, while others are only needed in special cases.
Here is a list of some of the most common supporting documents needed for a VA Disability Claim:
– Service Treatment Records (STRs)
– Civilian Medical Records
– VA Medical Documents
– DoD Disability Documents (MEB and PEB decision docs)
– Military Personnel Records (deployment orders, exposure documentation, separation docs, etc.)
– Other documents that support your case
Service Treatment Records:
Everyone needs to submit their service treatment records. No exception. The number one way to prove service-connection(a requirement all conditions must meet to be eligible for VA Disability) is to provide medical records that show that the condition existed while you were in the military. Just saying you had the condition when you were in the military but just never went to the doctor is not enough. You have to have proof. No proof = no service-connection.
This is also why I encourage service members to get examined for every condition they have, even if it isn’t a big deal at the time. If it worsens in the future, as long as it can be found in the service treatment records, it will qualify for VA Disability.
There are, of course, other ways to prove service-connection, but they are much more tricky. By far, the easiest is service treatment records.
Civilian Medical Records:
If you have gone to a civilian medical provider for treatment separate from the DoD and VA health systems for the conditions you are claiming, then you need to submit those medical records along with your claim. The VA needs to see all the evidence you have regarding your condition.
Now if it was a referral, then those records should already be on file, but double check just to make sure that the VA does have everything. The VA’s getting better at requesting and acquiring records, but it’s still far from flawless. And, besides, you want to keep a copy of everything in your own records anyway, so getting your own copy is always good.
VA Medical Documents:
Although the VA looks at and uses all submitted evidence to rate conditions, the VA’s C&P Exams are directly designed for rating purposes, so they are very important. These medical records will already be in the system, but it is a good idea to get copies for yourself in case there is ever a hitch in the system. Plus having them on hand will make it easier for you to build a strong appeals case, if needed.
DoD Disability Documents:
If you were medically separated from the military, then you’ll have gone through the Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) and Physical Evaluation Board (PEB), so you’ll need to submit all documents pertaining to their decisions to the VA. Make sure to include supporting documents you submitted to the Boards, like your commander’s letter, other testimonies, etc. Pretty much anything the Boards needed, the VA will need.
Now if you were separated between 2009 and the present, then you’ll have gone through the IDES and the VA will already have all of these since the IDES combines the DoD and VA disability processes. Again, keep a copy in your records and check to make sure they have everything.
Military Personnel Records:
Military personnel records are other duty records, like deployment orders, exposure documentation, and separation docs that provide evidence on aspects of your military service that is important for VA Disability purposes.
Everyone needs to submit their separation/discharge docs (DD Form 214, and the like) because your date of separation directly impacts when the VA should start providing compensation.
The majority of other military personnel records should only be submitted in special circumstances. These are used mainly to prove service-connection for conditions that develop after discharge but were caused by circumstances in your military career.
For example, if you were deployed to Vietnam and exposed to Agent Orange between 1962 and 1975, and now have a condition on the VA Presumptive List, you need to submit your deployment records in order to prove that you were deployed to Vietnam during the right time frame. Otherwise, the condition will not be approved.
Similarly, if you were exposed to radiation, you’ll need to submit the documents that clearly outline the details of your exposure.
Do not, however, submit all of your military personnel records. No one cares if you were stationed in Boise. Only submit ones that directly support your case.
If you have any additional documents that support your case make sure to submit them, but be smart. Do not just submit a random document unless it is truly pertinent to your case. You want to make the Rating Authority’s job easier, so extraneous paper is never a good idea.
Now that you know what documents you need to submit with your VA Disability Claim, let’s talk about how to get them all.
In most cases, the VA should keep digital records of the majority of your documents, including your military personnel file and other service documents. Before trying anything else, log in to your eBenefits account and see what you can access from there. Your VA Medical Documents will definitely be there. Most of the rest should be there too, especially if you separated more recently. This document gives step-by-step instructions on how to find these docs within the eBenefits portal: eBenefits Records.
Now if you couldn’t find everything you needed through eBenefits, there are other options.
Service Treatment Records are kept at the medical facility where you were last stationed for up to a year after separation. They are then sent to an archive facility. Contact the medical record department at your last medical facility. If they still have them, you can request a copy straight from them. If not, they can tell you where they sent them to be archived. You can also check out archives.gov, although their website isn’t terribly user-friendly.
To get your Civilian Medical Records, just contact your civilian doctor/facility directly.
DoD Disability Documents are a part of your Military Personnel Record, so you should be able to get both from the same place.
Click the following link to take you to information on how to access your records:
Army (Note on this one: it’s a third party site, but a comprehensive list too long to
reproduce here. Army always has to be more complicated…)
reproduce here. Army always has to be more complicated…)
At some point, records are all sent to the Custodians of each branch, so for older records, check the Custodian List for contact information.