After serving your country selflessly and completing your military service, you have been left with a life-altering injury or condition. You may have decided to move forward with an application for veterans disability compensation for your service-related injury, but there are several different options and you don’t know where to start.
The three claim types for veterans disability benefits are explained below to help guide you in the right direction.
Do I Qualify for Veterans Disability Benefits?
Before you become overwhelmed with paperwork, it is important to understand who can apply for veterans disability benefits. If you are a veteran of the U.S. Military and have a current injury or condition that is connected to that service, you may be eligible for disability compensation.
Filing Your Claim
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides several different forms and filing options for your initial disability application. These are:
Intent to File
Fully Developed Claim
Intent to File: This option is a relatively new process and should be used when you know that you want to file a claim for disability benefits but you need more time to gather information or to complete your application. The “Intent to File” option will preserve your date of claim, allowing you time to gather your records and documents without losing your effective date for your benefits. You will have one year from the date the “Intent to File” was submitted to complete your application for benefits.
There are four ways to submit an “Intent to File” to the VA:
Contact a local veterans service organization. A veterans service officer (VSO) there can assist you with submitting an “Intent to File” electronically.
Begin an online application for disability benefits (www.eBenefits.va.gov). Once you have started the claim, your intent to file is recorded after you select “Save,” even if the application is not completed. The eBenefits website can be confusing, so it is best to get assistance from a VSO when completing this application.
Complete VA Form 21-0966 and mail it to the VA. If you choose this option, make sure to keep a copy of the completed form for your records, and place a follow-up phone call to confirm that the VA has received the form.
Call the VA and inform the representative of your “Intent to File” over the phone: 1-800-827-1000
Other Veterans Disability Claim Options: Standard or Fully Developed Claims
If you have gathered some or all of your medical records and other documentation relevant to your conditions or injury, you can choose to move forward with the application for benefits. There are two options to choose from: A Standard Claim or a Fully Developed Claim.
Standard Claim: If you choose this option, the VA is responsible for assisting in the gathering of all of the medical evidence related to your claim for disability benefits. This is known as the VA’s Duty to Assist. The VA may also require you to seek a medical opinion or attend a medical exam (C&P Exam) to help determine service connection and the severity of your conditions. You will be responsible for providing treatment dates and a list of doctors/facilities that you have visited for treatment.
The Standard Claim usually takes much longer because the VA has to request all relevant medical records, including those from private physicians, and wait for the physicians or treatment facilities to respond to these requests.
Fully Developed Claim: This option is also fairly new and was developed in an effort to speed up the lengthy veterans disability claims process. With this option, you are responsible for gathering all of the required records and documentation that support your claim for disability benefits. This information is then submitted WITH your application. The VA will still obtain any Federal records, including service medical records. However, if you have them on hand, you should also submit them with your application.
Once your Fully Developed Claim is submitted, you will be asked to certify that there are no additional relevant records. After the application is received, the VA can start reviewing the evidence right away instead of spending a significant amount of time requesting additional information.
How Do I Know Which Option is Best for My Situation?
A veterans service officer (VSO) can be a great resource for determining which claim type is the best for your specific situation. A good VSO has much experience filing veterans disability claims and can help determine which path is appropriate for your situation. The VSO can also help you with understanding your eligibility, gathering the appropriate information, registering online, and filing your claim.
The VA Disability Benefits Claim Process can be lengthy, overwhelming, and frustrating, but finding answers to your disability claims questions doesn’t have to be difficult. Take our free quiz today to determine what resources are available for your specific needs.
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