Although you cannot receive VA disability compensation while you’re still enlisted in military service, you can apply for VA disability benefits by filing a pre-discharge claim through the Benefits Delivery at Discharge program (BDD). This post explains what the BDD program is, who is eligible to apply, and what you can do if you miss the window to apply for VA benefits through the BDD program.
In this post about BDD VA claims
Can you file for VA disability while on active duty?
As a full-time, active-duty service member, you may be able to receive VA disability benefits as soon as the day after you separate from service through the BDD program. Veterans who file VA disability claims early typically have an easier time tracking down the paperwork necessary to prove their disability is service connected.
If you are filing a claim through the BDD program, filing as close as possible to 180 days before your discharge may increase your chances of receiving an effective date that reaches back to discharge.
Eligibility requirements to apply for VA benefits through the BDD program
Active-duty service members may qualify for BDD if you meet all of these requirements:
- You’re a full-time, active-duty service member (including a member of the National Guard, Reserves, or Coast Guard).
- You know your separation date.
- You file your claim between 180 and 90 days prior to your separation date.
- You provide a copy of your service treatment records (STRs) for your current period of service when you file your claim.
- You can be available during a45-day window from the date your claim is submitted to attend VA exams.
If you fall into any one of the following categories, you cannot use the BDD program:
- You are terminally ill.
- You are pregnant.
- You lost a body part during service.
- You suffered a serious injury or sickness that requires case management.
- You are waiting to be discharged from a military treatment facility or VA hospital.
- You are unable to attend a VA exam within the 45-day period after you submit your claim.
- You didn’t submit copies of your STR for your current period of service with your application.
- You had less than 90 days left in active duty, and you added a medical condition to your original claim.
- You are waiting for VA determination of your character of discharge.
- You need to complete your VA exam outside of the U.S., unless you can do so at a BDD office in Landstuhl, Germany, or Camp Humphreys, Korea.
BDD claim timeline and how to apply for benefits
You must file your BDD claim within 180 to 90 days prior to your separation date along with all required documentation and supporting evidence. By submitting your claim within this window, you’re giving the VA time to process your BDD application, schedule exams, and review your STRs before you are discharged. The VA BDD claim timeline can change if you don’t get all of your documents in correctly.
If you are overseas, it’s recommended that you make sure you leave yourself enough time to complete your medical exam in the country in which you are stationed.
Claims may be submitted through the VA website using VA form 21-526EZ along with all other supporting documents.
Preparing to submit your BDD VA claim
We understand how important it is to get compensation for your disability as soon as possible. Filing for benefits early increases your chances of getting compensation sooner. The most important part of any VA disability benefits claim is to provide the right evidence that your disability is service connected. VA will only compensate for conditions that are related to military service. Such evidence determines whether the VA will assign a disability rating for your symptoms.
To prove service connection, you need to submit evidence that shows a connection between your disability and your time in the service. A buddy statement, which is a type of lay statement, can help show that a disability began during service..
“A buddy statement is a statement from someone with whom you served, someone that was in your unit that you shared a deployment with,” said VA disability lawyer Zach Evans. “A good lay statement provider would be from a sergeant or a commanding officer.”
Lay statements can help tell the VA more about your condition, how it affects your life, and the events that occurred to cause it or make it worse. Buddy statements can play a crucial role in your rating decision.
The VA is likely to require that you attend a compensation and pension (C&P) exam which will help with prove the medical nexus (or connection) between your condition and your service.
Other documents that can support your VA BDD claim include:
- Any medical records documenting injuries, illnesses or events that contributed to your service connected disability
- Dental records, if applicable
- Mental health records, if applicable, that show that you are suffering from a mental disability
- Marriage certificate/divorce decrees for yourself and your spouse
- Birth certificates for your spouse and/or dependent children, if applicable
- Direct deposit information for the account you wish compensation to be deposited in
What should you do if you’ve passed the BDD application window?
If you have fewer than 90 days left in active-duty, you are no longer eligible for the BDD program. Don’t worry, you can still file for VA benefits early by filing a standard or fully developed disability claim.
You can file for VA disability benefits anytime after discharge.
About Woods and Woods
Woods and Woods has helped thousands of veterans get the VA disability benefits they deserve. If you are unable to work because of service-connected conditions, contact us for a free consultation.
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You can start gathering documents and evidence to support your future claim at any time. In fact, preparing early makes the process easier on you, since you have better access to the required documentation. Once you know your discharge date, we recommend you submit your claim through the BDD program as close to 180 days from your separation as possible. This way, your case is stronger and your chances of earning VA benefits right after discharge are increased. Even if you are filing a post-service claim, you should begin preparing your disability claim before your discharge.
As long as you meet all of the required criteria, you can apply for VA benefits through the BDD program, even if you are stationed overseas. When you submit your claim, make sure you leave yourself enough time to attend scheduled VA exams in the country you’re in, that may include visits to specialty clinics.