No Claim File Yet?
In general , the claimant must be a veteran or the dependent or survivor of a veteran‚ in order to be eligible. For VA purposes, the definition of veteran‚ is‚ a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable.‚ Source: 38CFR3.1(d)
Disability compensation. (1) Basic entitlement for a veteran exists if the veteran is disabled as the result of a personal injury or disease (including aggravation of a condition existing prior to service) while in active service if the injury or the disease was incurred or aggravated in line of duty. Source: 38CFR3.1(b)
In plain English and general terms. In order to receive service connected disability compensation through Veterans Affairs. You must have an other than dishonorable discharge. And you must have evidence that the disability occurred or was aggravated in the line of duty.
Apply for Benefits
Once you know you are eligible fill out the application and send it in. The date this application is received will be the start date for you compensation pay if your claim is granted. This will impact how much retroactive pay you are entitled to and everyday you delay filing an application is a day you lose money, should your claim be granted.
Note: Service personnel applying for compensation prior to discharge date and who file within one year after discharge, the retro date is the first day after discharge.
Veterans On Line Application VONAPP
Do not use VONAPP if you: Are receiving compensation, pension, or vocational rehabilitation benefits, or Are applying for an increase in benefits, or Already have a pending application for benefits, or Are notifying the VA about dependency or income changes.
Veterans Application for Benefits Printed Version
TIP: If you fill out the application by hand, before signing it make several copies and if your form gets lost, all you have to do is sign one of the copies and send it in. I recommend this for all forms Veterans Affairs and Social Security at a minimum.
After VA receives your Application for Compensation, it sends you a letter. The letter explains what VA needs in order to help grant your claim. It states how VA assists in getting records to support your claim. The letter may include forms for you to complete, such as medical releases. They help VA obtain pertinent medical records from your doctor or hospital. You should try to complete and return all forms VA sends within a month. Your claim can often be processed more quickly if you send a copy of your own medical records. This letter is often referred to as the Duty to Assist Letter..
Now a word about whose duty it is in obtaining your records.
The VA does have a duty to assist you in obtaining your records, however, they may not get them all. If when released from active duty you were given a copy of your service medical records (SMRs) and your military personnel record than you are ahead of the game. If the VA needs to get your records that works also. I am going to emphasis again here DO NOT put off filing your application, in order to preserve the earliest effective date of your claim.
When I say the VA may not get them all, for example, you know you were hospitalized at such and such Military Hospital or Private Hospital there are going to records at that hospital that may or may not make it into your Service Medical Records, and the VA won’t‚ even know about it unless you tell them in the application or until they receive your SMRs and start to go through them.
So make a list of all the pertinent records you think the VA should have to decide your claim fairly and make sure they have those records. You can do this by contacting the VA at 1-800-827-1000 after you have filed your application and you have received a letter back from the VA and keep track of what records they have received and the list that you made.
The law says
THE VETERANS CLAIMS ASSISTANCE ACT OF 2000
On November 9, 2000, the President signed into law The Veterans Claims Assistance Act of 2000 (VCAA or Act). See Pub. L. No. 106-475 114 Stat. 2096 (2000). The VCAA Excerpt on Duty to Assist Veterans Claims Assistance Act of 200 Public Law 106-475
Tip: Before signing any forms once they are completely filled out. Make several copies to keep in your files in case the one you send gets lost, then all you have to do is sign it and send it in.
What Records VA Obtains to Support Your Claim
VA then attempts to get all the records relevant to your claimed medical conditions from the military, private hospitals or doctors, or any other place you tell them. The person who decides your claim (called a Rating Veterans Service Representative) may order a medical examination. This is referred to as a compensation and pension exam. This examination is free of charge. It is extremely important that you report for your examination at the scheduled time to avoid delaying your claim.
Tip: Read our Things to do at a compensation and pension exam. Review the official compensation and pension exam worksheets the VA provides Here
What to Expect during the Medical Examination
You should expect the examiner performing your medical examination to evaluate the condition(s) listed on your claim for benefits. Depending on the number and type of disabilities claimed, the length of the examination will vary. Psychiatric examination or that for multiple disabilities requires more time to evaluate.
The examiner may ask more questions about your disability's history, review pertinent medical records, or order additional testing or examinations, if necessary. The examination will not include any form of treatment for disabilities or acute illnesses. Unless additional information, tests, or evaluations are needed, the completed evaluation will be documented and forwarded to the VA Regional Office for processing.
What VA Does after Obtaining Your Records
After the Rating Veterans Service Representative has attempted to secure all the records (or evidence) required by law (including the report of any examinations), he/she reviews your file and makes a decision on the claim according to the law and the particular facts in your case. In the rating decision, the Rating Veterans Service Representative lists the evidence, the decision, and the reasons for it. VA then sends the decision with a cover letter. If benefits are granted, the letter provides the monthly payment amount and the effective date. Payments usually begin soon after you receive the letter (see Disability Award Attachment Information). However, if benefits are not granted and you think the decision was in error, or if you think the percentage evaluation or effective date is wrong, you may appeal (see Understanding the Appeals Process (*pdf format))