VA Disability Claim
VA Disability Claim
A VA Disability Claim is what the VA calls an application for VA Disability. A service member will submit a VA Disability Claim during Step 2 of the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) when they are being separated from the military for medical reasons. Even if they don’t go through the Integrated Disability Evaluation System, however, a veteran can still submit a VA Disability Claim at any time.
Once the VA Disability Claim is submitted, the veteran will undergo the C&P Exams. The VA’s Rating Authorities will then consider all the information they received from the VA Disability Claim and the C&P exam and assign a VA Disability Rating to each of the veteran’s service-connected medical conditions.
If a condition is not included on the VA Disability Claim, another VA Disability Claim can be submitted for that additional condition (including secondary conditions) at any time. A veteran can only submit one VA Disability Claim for each condition at a time, however, so if the veteran disagrees with the VA’s Rating Decision, they should submit an appeal, not another VA Disability Claim, until the period allowed for appeals has expired. They can then submit a new claim in order to reopen the claim for that condition.
A VA Disability Claim can also be submitted for a condition claimed previously if the condition has worsened and the veteran wants to apply for an increased evaluation.
Preparing to Submit a VA Disability Claim
The VA Disability Process takes time, but you can help it along by submitting a clear and complete VA Disability Claim (a “fully developed claim”).
The first thing you should do is submit VA Form 21-0966, Intent to File a Claim. This will guarantee that the affective date for your conditions is the earliest date you can get. You then have 12 months from the date of submission to submit your complete claim.
To do so, first gather all the evidence the VA needs in order to assign a VA Disability Rating to each of your conditions. You can Find Your Conditions on our site to figure out what information is needed to rate your conditions. This evidence should include all your military and civilian medical records regarding your conditions and any supporting evidence like a commander’s statement. Submitting sufficient medical evidence with your VA Disability Claim is essential.
You’ll also need to submit your Discharge DD Form 214, and, if you already went through the DoD Disability Process, the official documents from your Medical Evaluation Board and Physical Evaluation Board. (This step shouldn’t really be necessary anymore, however, since the new Integrated Disability Evaluation System combines the DoD Disability Process with the VA Disability Process.)
Once you’ve gathered all the necessary evidence, you’re ready to submit your VA Disability Claim.
It is essential that you submit your initial VA Disability Claim within one year of your date of separation from the military in order for you to qualify to receive full VA Disability Back Pay to your discharge date. If your application is submitted after the 1-year mark, you will lose this pay. The VA, however, has started a new program to help protect you against this loss. If it is taking you longer to compile all your evidence to submit along with your VA Disability Claim, you can still qualify for full back pay as long as you file your Intent to File before the 1-year mark.
Similarly, as long as you submit your VA Disability Claim within that 1-year mark, all of your conditions will automatically be assumed service-connected (unless there is clear evidence that they aren’t). If, however, the application is submitted after the year, then thorough evidence will also have to be submitted to prove that all the conditions were indeed caused by service.
Submitting a VA Disability Claim
You can submit your VA Disability Claim in one of two ways.
- You can use the online system on VA.gov.
- You can submit VA Form 21-526EZ via mail or in person at your local VA office. Make sure to pay close attention to all directions on the form so that you can get it submitted correctly the first time.
If you have not yet separated from the military, you cannot sumbit a VA Disability Claim unless you are within 180 days of your discharge date. If you are separating from the military because of your medical conditions, you will go through the Integrated Disability Evaluation System process, and you will be guided by your PEBLO to submit your VA Disability Claim as part of the process.
There are a few more forms that are submitted along with the VA Form 21-526EZ if the following circumstances apply:
- If you want to claim dependents, also submit VA Form 21-686c. If the dependents are between the ages of 18 and 23 and in school, also submit VA Form 21-674. To claim dependent parents, submit VA Form 21P-509.
- If you are claiming PTSD, submit VA Form 21-0781, unless the PTSD was caused by personal assault (meaning military sexual trauma, rape, etc.). Then submit VA Form 21-0781a.
- If you are claiming Unemployability, also submit both VA Form 21-8940 and VA Form 21-4192.
- If your home has been adapted or needs to be adapted because of your disability, you can apply for the Specially Adapted Housing program using VA Form 26-4555. Similarly, if your car needs adaptation, you can submit VA Form 21-4502 for Auto Allowance.
- If you or your spouse require at-home Aid and Attendance, submit VA Form 21-2680. If you or your spouse require Aid and Attendance in a nursing home, submit VA Form 21-0779.
What is a VA Disability Claim?
Veterans submit a VA Disability Claim in order to collect disability benefits from the VA for their service-connected conditions.
How do I submit my claim?
The best way to submit a claim along with all of your supporting materials is directly through the VA's eBenefits portal. You can also submit a paper copy of VA Form 21-526EZ to the address on the form.
Can I submit a claim any time?
Once you are a veteran, yes, you can submit a claim for disability benefits at any time. If you are still active duty, you can only submit a VA Disability Claim once you are within 90 days of your discharge date or as part of the Integrated Disability Evaluation System.
Do I submit a claim for each condition I have?
The VA will only rate conditions that you can prove are service-connected. Each service-connected condition you have must be included on a claim in order to be considered by the VA. You can and should submit each of your service-connected conditions on the same claim to simplify your process, but if you leave one off or another condition develops later, you will have to submit a new claim for those conditions.
What evidence should I submit with my claim?
You must submit documentation that proves that your conditions meet the requirements for service-connection; all medical records that include information on the diagnosis, treatment, and current state of your conditions, including the information necessary to properly rate the conditions; and your DD Form 214 and forms from your medical separation, if any. Additional evidence, like NEXUS Letters and buddy statements may be needed in some cases.
How long does it take the VA to process my claim?
A fully developed claim submitted with all the information necessary will usually be processed within 3 months. Claims with missing information could take significantly longer.
What do I do if my claim is denied?
If your claim is denied, then you can follow the instructions on the Rating Decision to submit an appeal. When you submit your appeal, you will need to pick for your appeal to be processed in one of the RAMP lanes, depending on the reason your claim was denied. Full information can be found on our Appeals page.
How can I check on the status of my claim?
You can find the current status of your claim in your eBenefits portal or by calling your Regional VA office.