The VA claim process can be daunting for Veterans. There are many nuances to navigate, and a great deal of paperwork is involved. Many people get overwhelmed, and when it comes to filing for a disability claim, they are unsure where to start. At Vet Comp & Pen Medical Consulting, we have many years of experience working with Veterans who are filing their claims. The purpose of this article is to lay out information that can help when you get started with your VA claim.
Intent to File
Have an active Intent to File. An Intent to File is simply telling the VA that you’re going to file a disability claim, and it establishes your effective date. You have up to a year after filing an Intent to File to initiate your disability claim. If that claim is successful, your effective date will revert to when you initiated the Intent to File.
This is a critical step because it could mean thousands of extra dollars in back pay if your claim is successful. You can electronically complete your intent to file with a premium eBenefits account; it’s very easy to do. We recommend that every Veteran have a premium eBenefits account to facilitate all of your VA-related activity. You can also send an Intent to File by mail using VA Form 21-0966, which you can download.
It is easy to track the date of your active Intent to File with a premium eBenefits account. We recommend that Veterans note the day they filed to be sure to initiate a claim within that 365-day window. Set a reminder on your calendar so you don’t forget.
The next step of the process is collecting your medical evidence. If a private medical provider has treated you, the VA does not have access to those records. It is your responsibility to send those records to the VA or give the VA access to them. If you’re treated at the VA medical center for the condition that you’re claiming, the VA will have access to those records, so you do not have to send records from the VA medical center.
It’s very important when you collect and prepare your evidence that you establish:
- You have a disability
- The level of disability
- The symptoms that you’re experiencing
At Vet Comp & Pen we specialize in helping Veterans document their symptoms as soon as possible and their level of disability to support their claim. It is imperative to use the 38 CFR schedule of ratings as a guideline when you file. We know exactly how to do that. We know how to make sure that your symptoms are not missed because medical records don’t always have all of the symptoms that establish your rating. Your doctor doesn’t always evaluate all of those things or ask you all of the relevant questions.
Now that you have your evidence, you’re ready to file. If there is a local Veteran Service Officer (VSO) that you trust, you can take the paperwork to them and have them file it electronically for you. Alternatively, you can do it yourself in about 10 minutes with a premium eBenefits account online, and it doesn’t take very long. If you do it online, the system walks you through it, and it automatically populates a 21-526EZ form to acknowledge the claim is filed electronically with the VA. Once you confirm that the VA has accepted your claim, you will establish your effective date. You can then track the status of your claim with your premium eBenefits account. We recommend Veterans use a premium eBenefits account simply because it is the most efficient method of filing and the fastest way to get a quick decision.
If you’re a Veteran and serious about getting the benefits that you medically, legally and ethically qualify for, find out if Vet Comp & Pen can help you. We will make sure to provide you with relevant evidence to establish the earliest effective date possible to document your level of disability. This is the best way to ensure that you maximize your benefit if you win that claim.
For more about the VA claim process after you file your claim visit our FAQ’s page here, or give us a call at 888-988-3837.