When the VA reaches a rating decision for your disability compensation application, it will send you a disability award letter. And unless you knew at the time that you wanted to file a dispute, you may not have kept up with that letter. So what do you do if you don’t know where your disability award letter is?
Luckily, there are ways you can retrieve that letter even if you’ve lost the original copy. You might need it to appeal your claim or to get other VA benefits.
In this article about your VA award letter:
- What Is Your VA Disability Award Letter?
- How the VA Determines Your Award Amount
- When Do You Get Your VA Award Letter?
- Why Do You Need It?
- What Does It Include?
- Types of VA Letters You Can Download
- Setting Up an eBenefits Account
- Logging In To eBenefits
- Finding Your VA Letter
- Reviewing Your Letter
- Downloading the Letter
- Getting Letters You Can’t Download
- Other VA Documents You May Need
- What to Do If You Haven’t Received Your Awards Letter Yet
- Tips for Appealing Low Awards
- Learn How to Get a Copy of a VA Disability Award Letter
What Is Your VA Disability Award Letter?
Before we dive into how to get your hands on your VA disability award letter, let’s talk a little about what it is first. Your VA disability award letter lets you know the rating decision for your claim and is commonly referred to as a “rating decision.” Your specific rating will determine how much compensation you receive from the VA each month.
The VA will look at all your disabilities and consider how severely they impact your life and your ability to work. The VA uses specific metrics to translate that impact into an overall disability rating. So for instance, if you have moderate hearing loss in both ears, you may receive a 20% disability rating.
How the VA Determines Your Award Amount
Once the VA has your disability rating, it will use that to determine how much compensation you will get every month. Some disability ratings get an automatic baseline compensation amount. For instance, for a disability rating of 10%, you will receive $152.64 per month.
However, for ratings above 30%, your compensation amount will be based on how many people depend on you financially. For instance, if you have a 60% disability rating and no dependents, you will receive $1,214.03 per month. But if you have a spouse, a child, and two parents relying on you, you’ll receive more than $300 extra beyond that amount.
When Do You Get Your VA Award Letter?
After you submit your VA disability claim, it will review it to make sure your claim. You will need to have an official diagnosis of your condition, be able to prove a service connection to your condition (or prove presumptive condition circumstances), and have a medical nexus connecting your condition and your military service. During this review process, the VA may request additional evidence from you.
Once the VA has reached a decision regarding your claim, it will prepare your claim decision packet for mailing. This will include your disability award letter, as well as other information about the rating decision. It will take between two and four weeks for your claim decision packet to reach you.
Here, one of our VA disability lawyers explains the Nexus letter and why it is the missing link for many VA appeal cases.
Why Do You Need It?
So you may be wondering why you would need to get your VA disability award letter. You got your decision, and it is what it is, right? In fact, if you feel your disability award is too low, you can appeal the decision, but you’ll need your disability claim letter to do so.
Once you get your claim decision packet, you’ll have one calendar year to file a Notice of Disagreement. You may also need your letter for important transactions and applications. For instance, veterans can qualify for lower mortgage rates, but you will need your disability award letter to prove your eligibility.
What Does It Include?
Your VA disability award letter will begin with a brief explanation of the decision about your case. There will be a section labeled “What We Decided” that will list your claimed condition or conditions. Next to each you’ll find your disability rating for that condition and the date the decision becomes effective. This is called your effective date.
The VA may also include a chart explaining how multiple disability ratings are combined to provide your new overall rating. It will include information about any dependents that may have impacted the amount of your compensation. And it will provide information about what steps you can take if you disagree with the amount you were awarded for your claim.
One of our lawyers explains why your VA disability effective date is so important and is one way for you to get extra money in your pocket.
Types of VA Letters You Can Download
In some cases, you may be able to download your VA disability letter through the VA’s eBenefits website. But there are certain types of letters you won’t be able to download. For instance, your Post-9/11 GI Bill statement of benefits and your Certificate of Eligibility for home loan benefits may not be available for download.
You should be able to download a variety of VA letters that include information about your benefits or your service history. In addition to your disability award letter, you should be able to access your claims file through the site. You should also have access to your service record through the VA’s website.
If you work with us, we keep backups of all of your documents for over a year after we’re done with your claim. You can also contact us and see what documents we have for you. Your call is free and you are under no obligation at all.
Setting Up an eBenefits Account
The first step in downloading your VA disability award letter will be setting up an account on the VA’s eBenefits site. This is the site you will use to manage your claim from start to finish. You can file a claim, manage your benefits, access an employment center, and more through the site.
In order to set up an eBenefits account, you will need to be listed in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System and get a DS logon. If you are not listed in DEERS, your local VA office will be able to get you listed. You’ll want to use your DS Logon to register for a Premium account in order to access your disability award letter.
Logging In To eBenefits
Once you have your eBenefits account set up, you can log in using the blue “Log In” button at the top right-hand corner of the web page. You’ll need to check a consent checkbox to log in with either a DS logon or a Common Access Card.
If you’re the caregiver of a veteran, you can also access an eBenefits account to manage it on the veteran’s behalf.
Once you’ve checked the consent box and clicked “Next,” you’ll be on your home dashboard of your eBenefits account. Veterans who haven’t applied for disability compensation yet can do so under the “Apply” tab, and those who have questions can select the “Learn” tab. You’ll need to go to the “Manage” tab at the top of your screen to access your disability award letter.
Finding Your VA Letter
After you’ve logged into the eBenefits site, mouse over the “Manage” tab and click on “Documents and Records.” This page will allow you to view or update your Compensation and Pension claim, upload supporting documents, view your Dependency and Indemnity Compensation status, and more.
On this page, you’ll see a grid reading “Service Member Personnel Information,” “Military Personnel File,” “VA Medical Records,” and more. You’re going to select “VA Letters,” which will take you to a page with a list of different letters. You’ll want to select “Benefit Summary – Veteran Benefits.”
One of our veterans that got help with his tinnitus VA claim talks about his experience working with Woods and Woods in this review:
Reviewing Your Letter
Once you get to your benefits summary letter, there will be a number of different boxes you’ll need to check or uncheck. These boxes will determine what details are included in the copy of the letter you download. It’s a good idea to check with the organization you’ll be sending the letter to so that you can determine what information it needs.
Decide whether you want to include information about your recent periods of military service, whether you have one or more service-related disabilities, what your combined service-connected evaluation is, and more. Double-check that you’ve included all the information you need before you download your letter. Then click the blue “Generate Benefits Summary Letter” button at the bottom of the screen.
Downloading the Letter
When you click “Generate Benefits Summary Letter,” you’ll be taken to a new tab with your completed benefits letter. Review it again to make sure it contains all the information you want it to before you save it. There are two ways to save your letter: digitally or physically.
If you need a digital copy of your letter, click the small “Save” icon (it looks like a floppy disk) in the top right corner. This will allow you to save a PDF of your letter to your computer. Be sure you make a note of what folder your letter is saved in so you can find it again later.
If you need a physical copy of your letter, click the printer icon just to the left of the “Save” icon. This will take you to a printer dialogue, where you can print a copy of your letter. You can also choose to save your letter as a PDF using this method.
Getting Letters You Can’t Download
In some cases, you may need access to letters that you can’t download through the VA’s website. If you find yourself in this situation, your best option is to go to your local VA office for assistance. The office will be able to put you in touch with the right people to get your letter if it isn’t available through the eBenefits site.
If you run into trouble with the eBenefits site, call the VA at (844) 698-2311 or MYVA311. If you have hearing loss, you can call (844) 698-2711.
Other VA Documents You May Need
There are several other important documents that you might need that you can access through the VA website. These include:
- Benefit Verification letter – Confirm details about the VA benefit you are currently receiving
- Disabled Veteran Civil Service Preference – Establishes your preference for civil service employment
- Proof of Creditable Prescription Drug Coverage – Shows you are eligible for Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage
- Proof of Minimum Essential Coverage – Shows you meet the individual responsibility requirement under the ACA
- Service Verification – Confirms your branch of service, the date you entered on active duty, and the date you were discharged from active duty
- (This is not an exhaustive list. When we develop your claim, we may add more to help you win your case.)
What to Do If You Haven’t Received Your Awards Letter Yet
If you’ve recently submitted a VA disability benefits application but haven’t received your disability rating decision yet, the first thing to do is check how long it’s been since you submitted your application. In some cases, the VA takes weeks or months to come to a decision about a claim. And then, once it decides your case, it may take a week or more to assemble your claim decision packet and another week for it to reach you by mail.
If it’s been several months since you submitted your claim, however, and you still haven’t heard anything, get in touch with your local VA office, which can help you determine what your claim status is and figure out why you haven’t received your letter yet. You can also check on your C-file to see the current status of your claim.
Tips for Appealing Low Awards
If you feel your award amount is lower than you deserve, you have a year from the date your disability award letter was issued to dispute that rating decision. Make sure you act as soon as you get your letter. Delays can make it hard or impossible to get the compensation you’re entitled to.
It may also be a good idea to hire a lawyer who specializes in veteran law to help you with your appeal. Not only will an attorney be able to help you navigate deadlines and appeal requirements, but they also know the best ways to set up an application. They’ll be able to help you get as much compensation as possible for your disabilities.
Learn How to Get a Copy of a VA Disability Award Letter
There are a number of reasons you might need to know how to get a copy of a VA disability award letter, ranging from filing a dispute to buying a house. You should be able to access the letter you need through the VA’s eBenefits site. If you can’t access the letter there, visit your local VA office for help.
If you’d like help appealing your VA disability compensation decision, reach out to us at Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm. We fight for veterans every day, and you don’t pay unless we win. Contact us today to start getting the compensation you deserve.