If you’re looking for help applying for VA benefits, you found the right place. This comprehensive guide was written to help veterans understand how to apply for VA disability compensation benefits.
If you have questions after reading our guide and watching the videos, feel free to call Woods & Woods. There is never a charge for help applying for VA benefits.
In This Helpful Guide to Applying for VA Benefits:
- What Should I Put on my VA Disability Benefits Application?
- Steps to Applying for VA Disability Compensation Benefits
- Frequently Asked Questions: Applying for VA Benefits
- Links & Forms You’ll Need Applying for VA Benefits
- What Evidence Helps When Applying for VA Benefits?
- Examples of How to Use Evidence When Applying for VA Benefits
- What if my VA Disability Application is Denied?
- Get Help Applying for VA Benefits
What Should I Put on my VA Disability Benefits Application?
Applying for VA benefits requires a well-thought-out plan. Don’t submit your application until you’re confident your story has been told through your VA disability application and supporting documents. Veterans with strong evidence are more likely to win their claims.
When conducting initial client interviews, our VA disability lawyers are always interested in the veteran’s story, not just the mental and physical conditions. When completing your application, treat yourself like a potential client. Act as though you just met yourself. When your application is complete, ask yourself if you’ve painted a full and accurate picture of your mental and physical conditions.
Make sure all of your conditions and their backstories are included in your VA disability application. Remember, the VA examiner knows nothing about you. Veterans get to create their story and it’s your job to convey all the information to the VA.
Make sure you list all your conditions, then provide strong relevant evidence that you have the condition. You will want to tell the VA how severe your condition is and how it affects your life.
One of the most important parts of your story is how your disabilities came to be. Do not forget to express the nexus between your conditions and events in service. If you entered the military with your condition and service made it worse, explain that to the VA. If your condition started during the service, explain how it happened. Don’t assume any detail is unimportant.
VA disability attorney Lori Underwood explains how to apply:
Steps to Applying for VA Disability Compensation Benefits
This section explains the steps necessary to file a successful VA disability application. We have compiled the critical steps taken during the VA disability application process.
Remember, if you need help applying for VA benefits, Woods & Woods can help. We never charge a penny for help with your VA disability compensation application.
Time needed: About 92 days to apply.
Step by step process of applying for VA disability benefits:
- Talk To Someone VA Certified
The VA certifies claim agents and attorneys who are capable of representing disabled American veterans. We highly suggest you talk to someone familiar with VA disability law before you file your claim. Veterans can reach out to VSOs, the DAV, VA accredited/certified attorneys, or sometimes their local VFW.
- Set Up Your eBenefits Account Online
You can mail a paper application but we recommend filing online. Veterans can apply through eBenefits and track their claims through the VA disability compensation application process. Using eBenefits is especially helpful if you have several different pending VA claims.
- Fill Out VA Disability Application and Submit Evidence
When filling out your VA disability application, we always suggest you include all your mental and physical disabilities. Veterans may not realize some conditions are considered secondary service-connected impairments. Make sure to submit your DD-214, any other separation documents, service treatment records, and any medical evidence or treatment records.
- Get Receipt of Your VA Disability Claim
If you mailed your veterans benefits application you should receive a notice the VA received your claim within a few weeks. If you applied through eBenefits, you should be able to see confirmation that your VA disability benefits application was received within hours.
- Veterans Service Representative Reviews Evidence
Your VA disability application is going to be assigned to a Veterans Service Representative (VSR). They are going to look at your evidence and possible request more evidence from you, doctors, government agencies, etc.
- Veterans Service Representative Makes Decision
At this stage, your VSR has enough evidence to make a decision on your VA disability benefits application. The VSR will review your evidence, make a recommendation, and write a letter supporting their findings.
- VSR Decision Reviewed & Finalized
The VSR will send the decision back to the VA. More evidence may be requested at this stage if the reviewer believes the decision is not supported by current evidence.
- Rating Decision Letter Sent to Veteran
VA disability attorney Lori Underwood explains what veterans benefits you might qualify for:
Frequently Asked Questions: Applying for VA Benefits
VA attorney Lori Underwood explains how veterans can get VA and Social Security benefits at the same time:
Links & Forms You’ll Need Applying for VA Benefits
We have compiled some of the most important links and forms you will need when applying for VA benefits. Please consider every resource in this section for your VA disability compensation application.
The more time and effort you put into your VA benefits application upfront, the happier you’ll be later. The VA disability appeals process can take years. So, fight hard on the application!
Printer Friendly Application Form
If you wish to mail your VA disability application, you can click on the link below to get a PDF copy of the application to print at home. You can mail the application to:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444
eBenefits Online Applications
Aid & Attendance Application Forms
- Housebound Status or Permanent Need for Regular Aid and Attendance (VA Form 21-2680)
- Request for Nursing Home Aid & Attendance (VA Form 21-0779)
Dependent Application Forms
- Declaration of Status of Dependents (VA Form 21-686c)
- Request for Approval of School Attendance (VA Form 21-674)
Individual Unemployability Application Forms
- Veteran’s Application for Unemployability (VA Form 21-8940)
- Request for Employment Information (VA Form 21-4192)
PTSD Application Forms
- Statement in Support of Claim for PTSD (VA Form 21-0781)
- PTSD Secondary to Personal Assualt Form (VA Form 21-0781a)
VA Authorization Forms
VA disability attorney Neil Woods answers questions on Individual Unemployability ratings:
What Evidence Helps When Applying for VA Benefits?
Using the best evidence possible is how veterans win VA disability compensation benefits on their applications. Listed below are some of the most important pieces of evidence veterans should use when applying for VA benefits.
When applying for VA benefits, submit all relevant medical evidence you can get your hands on. If you are treated with a private doctor across the country, reach out to them and request your records. Every single one of your mental and physical conditions should be accompanied by a diagnosis and treatment records.
Claims File (C-File)
Veterans should request and receive their Claims File (C-File) from the VA before submitting their application. Your C-File should have all your treatment records from the service. You may find some treatment records are missing. Some veterans’ C-Files are thousands of pages long. Veterans might find their records hard to read with poor photocopies of the doctor’s handwritten notes. We’ve even seen photocopied pages that survived a VA facility fire where half the page is gone.
Go through your C-File and find evidence that will relate to your service-connected conditions. Submit those records when applying for VA benefits. Don’t expect your VA claims examiner to go through your C-File page by page and analyze every single handwritten note or doctor’s report.
Doctors can write reports about why your conditions are service-connected. Veterans can use VA disability expert reports in any VA disability application. Our VA disability lawyers use expert doctor reports in a large majority of our cases.
Doctor reports can be particularly helpful for secondary service-connected conditions. For example, suppose you have a documented back injury while in service. Your back injury might also be the cause of your hip, leg, foot, and neck problems. An expert report from a doctor may be able to link all your conditions to your back injury.
Lay statements are fairly simple pieces of evidence. These statements can be submitted when applying for VA benefits. Lay statements can come from your friends, family members, spouses, ex-spouses, children, or co-workers.
Lay statements should tell a story of how you were before, during, and after military service. Have your friends and family members write statements about how military service changed your life. They should also discuss how your service-connected conditions affect your daily life. Lay statements are particularly helpful for mental health conditions.
Veterans can use statements from people they served within the military. Buddy statements are particularly helpful to prove certain events that happened: hazing, sexual assault, IED, enemy attack, etc. Buddy statements are just short statements confirming the event took place. This is a powerful tool for veterans to find events missing from their service records.
Veterans can submit psychological reports when applying for VA benefits. Veterans who are applying for mental health conditions should strongly consider having a mental health professional write a report detailing the severity of your condition. For example, suppose a veteran is applying for Total Disability Individual Unemployability benefits. The psychological report should cover why the veteran cannot work from their mental health conditions.
VA disability attorney Zack Evans explains how to prove direct service-connected conditions:
Examples of How to Use Evidence When Applying for VA Benefits
When applying for VA benefits, veterans should think and act like a VA disability attorney. Remember, you are trying to build a case that proves your conditions are related to your time in the service. You should have evidence that backs up each condition and links the conditions to your time in the military.
Each type of VA Benefits application should have different types of evidence. Here are some examples:
Agent Orange VA Disability Applications
Agent Orange exposure can be difficult to prove. Many service records have been lost or destroyed. Lots of vets can’t even prove they served in the Vietnam War from DOD records. Agent Orange claims can be proven by old photos of veterans serving abroad. You can also submit letters from other service members saying they served with you.
Individual Unemployability VA Applications
Your Individual Unemployability application should completely revolve around proving your conditions are service-connected and you cannot work from them. One way veterans can win Individual Unemployability applications is to submit a statement from a vocational expert. These experts can write a report detailing why your service-connected conditions prevent you from working.
Mental Conditions on VA Disability Applications
Mental conditions require all kinds of evidence. It is best if you are treating with a psychologist or other mental health professional. Veterans may submit statements from friends and family confirming the existence of a mental condition.
PTSD VA Disability Applications
For PTSD claims, you should submit statements from friends and family showing how your behavior changed after your service. Veterans should include statements from fellow service members that could prove a traumatic event occurred.
Secondary Service-Connected Conditions on VA Disability Applications
You will have to be able to show the service connection of secondary impairments. For example, you will need to prove that your neuropathy is from your diabetes. Proving secondary service-connected impairments gets difficult and we highly suggest you contact a VA benefits lawyer.
VA disability attorney Zack Evans discusses why your Nexus Letter is so important to each condition:
What if my VA Disability Application is Denied?
If your VA disability application is denied, you can appeal the VA’s decision. This section will explain your rights to appeal as a veteran with disabilities denied the benefits you deserve.
We recommend you work with a professional when applying so you can reduce your chances of having to go through the appeals process.
Limited Amount of Time to Appeal
Veterans who are denied benefits or receive a low rating have one year from the date on their Rating Decision letter to file an appeal. If you have waited longer than a year to appeal, you can file a new claim. We recommend that you do not wait to file your appeal. The appeals process can take years.
The VA Disability Appeal Process is Complex
If you are appealing a simple claim like tinnitus, you probably don’t need a VA disability lawyer. However, if you have a complicated claim with lots of conditions, you might want to think about hiring an attorney. The VA disability appeals process is time-consuming and there are numerous deadlines. People who aren’t legal professionals often find it difficult to write briefs, research case law, and submit evidence.
Talk to a Lawyer About Your Denial or Low-Rating
The VA benefits appeals lawyers at Woods & Woods have won thousands of appeals. Our law firm is solely focused on representing disabled American veterans. If you hire our law firm to appeal a denial or low rating, we only charge if your appeal is successful. If you don’t win your appeal, you don’t pay a penny.
Learn more about Woods & Woods in this video:
Get Help Applying for VA Benefits
The attorneys at Woods and Woods are proud to help veterans applying for VA benefits at no cost. We never charge veterans a penny for help with their VA disability benefits application.
There is never a fee to call and ask questions. We have helped thousands of veterans win their applications for free. Our law firm has been fighting for people with disabilities since 1985.