What if you could make the VA claim process easier for yourself?
The Fully Developed Claim (FDC) process is one of the fastest ways to claim your VA pension claim. Unfortunately, many veterans don’t know what this program is, much less the dangers of using it.
Ready to learn more about the FDC program and what to watch out for? Keep reading to discover the answers.
The Details on The Fully Developed Claim Program:
- What Is the Fully Developed Claim Program?
- Differences Between FDC and Traditional Claims
- Why Would You File a Fully Developed Claim?
- What If the VA Decides Your Claim Is Not Fully Developed?
- Types of Claims You Can File
- Info For the Claim
- Standard or FDC: Which is Better?
- Required Evidence
- Gathering Evidence
- When Do You Turn In Evidence?
- How To Turn In Evidence
- When To File a Fully Developed Claim
- Getting Professional Assistance
- What Comes Next?
What Is the Fully Developed Claim Program?
The Fully Developed Claim (FDC) program is an alternative to traditional claims for things like disability compensation, survivor benefits, and pension. And from the ground up, the FDC is designed to expedite your claim to get your money faster.
How does this work? When you file such a claim, you are certifying that the VA will not need any additional evidence to process your claim. This puts more of a burden on you to gather evidence. If you do it, you waive your right to the VA’s “Duty to Assist” obligations to find evidence for you.
To better understand what makes the FDC so different, let’s compare it to the more traditional claims process.
Differences Between FDC and Traditional Claims
You may have heard other veterans talk about the traditional claims process causing them headaches. This is usually because the process takes so long.
With a normal process, you file your claim first and then the VA gathers evidence. Only after they have gathered such evidence can they make a decision on your claim.
It’s impossible to tell how long it will take the VA to gather evidence, but it usually takes many months. Worst of all, there is always a chance they will deny the claim and force you to appeal.
With the fully developed claim process, you take on much of the burden of evidence gathering. Theoretically, it means that you’ll get your ruling sooner. In reality, it’s more likely that you’ll get denied and have to spend more time in appeals because you have to have all of your evidence together for a perfect case with no help from the VA.
Why Would You File a Fully Developed Claim?
Now you know a bit more about how the FDC process works. However, you may have a simpler question: why would you file such a claim?
We’ve already touched on the primary reason most veterans go with the FDC program. Simply put, it’s because they want their claim processed more quickly.
However, you may not want to pursue the FDC program if you aren’t prepared to do a lot of research on your own. For example, you’re going to need to scrub through and find the exact military records and medical records that the VA needs. For the FDC process, you must submit everything at once, so there is not a real option to send things in as you find them.
You also are not putting any pressure on the VA to help you find evidence. An FDC claim is saying that you’ve gathered all of the evidence you need and the VA need not check their records to help you.
Talk to Us About Your Claim: (866) 232-5777
What If the VA Decides Your Claim Is Not Fully Developed?
By now, you probably have a simple question: what happens if the VA decides your claim is not fully developed? Frankly, it can feel a bit terrifying to think that your financial future depends on a single claim where you personally gathered all of the evidence.
Fortunately, the worst thing that can happen with an FDC is that the VA thinks more evidence is required and they switch you over to the standard claim process. The bad news is that this adds additional time that you must wait. The good news is that this provides an additional chance to gather the evidence (with VA help) to prove your claim.
If you are switched over to a standard claim, you enjoy all of the protection that comes with it. For example, if a standard claim is denied, you always have the chance to file for an appeal.
We work with our clients to not rush anyone’s case. In the long run, skipping details at the beginning can add years onto your claim process.
Types of Claims You Can File
So far, we have used the term “claim” extensively in our comprehensive guide. Because of that, you probably have a straightforward question: what kinds of claims can you file with an FDC?
Many veterans use the FDC to file for disability compensation. However, others use it to file for their pension and expedite that claim.
You can also file an FDC to re-open a previous claim or make a claim for a secondary service connection. Some veterans even use the FDC to make claims for Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability — But we advise against using it for something so important.
As you can see, the FDC process is very versatile. But the success or failure of your claim often comes down to you gathering the right information all at once, by yourself, before you file. Even filing on your own without a VA disability lawyer’s help would give you a better chance of winning your claim than using the FDC.
Talk to Us About Your Claim: (866) 232-5777
Info For the Claim
Now that you know about how the FDC works and what kinds of claims you can make – if you still want to do it – let’s dig a little deeper. What kind of information are you going to need before you start?
The actual application is very easy. For example, someone filing for a pension would simply fill out the relevant online application. It’s a long application, so make sure you have all of your information on hand before you begin. You should also make sure you aren’t filling it out on a phone or tablet. The screen will be just too small to use accurately on a mobile device.
You’ll need to provide information about your income and net worth. On top of that, you’ll need to provide any and all private medical records that relate to your claim. Finally, you’ll need to provide information about your health records from places like VA medical centers and clinics.
Before you file, you may want (or need) to go to VA medical appointments so that you can provide the latest information about your health records. Because the pressure is on you to provide all of the information, the VA may not even require a C&P exam, which would be a critical tool in helping you prove your service-connection.
Here are some tips on your C&P exam from one of our VA disability lawyers.
Standard or FDC: Which is Better?
When you file a Fully Developed Claim with the VA, you are telling them it is just that: Fully Developed. That means they don’t need any more evidence to judge your claim. That also means that they won’t lift a finger to help prove your case, even though they are sitting on tons of records that could help you out.
If something critical is missing, they won’t go find it or tell you how important that piece of documentation is.
Sure, the decision and award process will go faster with an FDC, but you should also consider the time it takes for you to gather your evidence, make sure it is all correct and that you have a bulletproof case, and that you are certain you are going to win.
If your Fully Developed Claim is denied, then you are right back in the normal VA disability application process and you haven’t saved yourself any time. A lot of veteran’s don’t have time to do it over the right way, so let’s take the time to do it right on the first try.
A behind the scenes look at who works for you at Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm
We have reviewed some of the most basic evidence you’ll need to turn in with an FDC. But what are the specifics? The exact evidence you need to provide depends largely on the type of claim you are filing.
For example, someone filing for disability will need to provide every possible piece of medical records that prove they suffer from an illness or medical condition that keeps them from earning a living. Such evidence must also show that the illness or medical condition is an effect of their military service. To do so, a veteran must provide a combination of military records and medical evidence (including x-rays, test results, and physician statements).
Even though you are the primary one gathering evidence, the standard for evidence isn’t any higher for an FDC than it is for a standard claim. The VA doesn’t offer a checklist or an “Easy DIY VA Disability Application” booklet. If you file an FDC claim and leave out something important, they will just deny your claim and send it back.
The whole point of the FDC program is that you gather most of the evidence on your own. With that being said, there are a couple of ways in which the VA can still help you.
First, the VA can help you retrieve records from any relevant federal facility. You must be able to identify the documents you need and authorize them to gather the records, and then the VA can get the actual documents in question.
Second, the VA can get a medical opinion about you or schedule a health exam for you. This all comes down to whether they think this information will be necessary to process your claim. You will also have to request it, since it is not required of the VA to do it in the FDC program.
The VA can do both of these things with a standard claim as well. However, with a standard claim, they are required by law to do their best to retrieve relevant information outside of federal facilities, including medical records, employment records, state records, and governmental records. With an FDC, you must gather all of the information outside of federal facilities on your own.
When Do You Turn In Evidence?
Let’s say you’ve gathered all of the evidence you need for the claim. When do you turn the evidence in? Simple: you must provide all evidence at the time you file the claim.
What happens if you turn additional information in after the fact? At that point, the VA will switch your FDC over to a standard claim.
Finally, what happens if they decide against your claim? If the VA makes a decision up to one year after receiving your FDC claim, you’ll have the remainder of that one-year-period to turn in any additional evidence you may have gathered.
You don’t have to use a Veteran’s compensation lawyer that is nearby. We can work with you over the phone and apply or appeal electronically.
How To Turn In Evidence
We have discussed the need to turn in evidence as soon as you file your claim. But how, exactly, do you turn in the evidence?
The short answer is that the entire process is now electronic. You must fill out the application online and provide the evidence at that time. And all of the evidence must be in some electronic form as well (such as .jpg images and .pdf files).
Chances are that some of the evidence you gathered is in the form of physical documents. Before you file a claim, you must scan all of the relevant documents. As an added bonus, you will now have a digital record of this important information. Be sure to keep copies and documentation of everything you send to the VA.
When To File a Fully Developed Claim
When it comes to VA claims, the timeline is often an open question. Many veterans hesitate to file anything too early, and they certainly don’t want to file too late. When, then, is the right time to file an FDC?
The honest answer is, “As soon as you have collected enough evidence.” It’s in your interest to file an FDC sooner rather than later so that you can enjoy the benefits as soon as possible.
The problem is, how much evidence is enough?
If you submit the claim without enough evidence on your side, you make the entire process take much longer.
To truly speed the process up, you should consider getting some professional assistance.
Talk to Us About Your Claim: (866) 232-5777
Getting Professional Assistance
As you can tell, the entire FDC process is complicated and very intimidating. You may not always know what evidence you need or how to collect it. And if anything goes wrong with the process, you may not have anyone who can help out.
That’s why it is important to have an experienced attorney by your side. The right legal firms can help with every step of the process, including gathering evidence and submitting your claim. And if your claim is ultimately denied, the same attorney can help you with the appeal process.
A good attorney by your side is the ultimate precaution against intimidating VA paperwork. And they will provide the best chance to help your claim succeed.
If you already did an FDC and got denied, feel free to call us. Our consultation call is free and we don’t charge until we win your case.
What Comes Next?
Now you know how and when to file a Fully Developed Claim. But do you know who can help you with this process?
At Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm, we help veterans get the compensation they deserve for helping serve and protect our great nation. To see how we can help you do better than the Fully Developed Claim process, contact us today!