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Disability Compensation

Disability compensation is a monthly benefit paid to veterans for any injury, condition, or illness that started in or was exacerbated by active service in the military. This benefit is tax free and also can be paid to veterans disabled from treatment in a VA healthcare facility.

Veterans may be eligible for disability compensation if they have a service-connected disability, often referred to as "S/C", and  were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions. A service-connected disability does not have to be a combat injury; any injury or illness suffered or aggravated while in uniform can be considered.  See the VA Disability Compensation Rates for Veterans page for actual payment amounts.

How Do I File a Claim?

STEP 1: FILE A CLAIM

We recommend you work with a Veterans Representative at a County Veterans Service Office or Veterans Service Organization who can help you file your claim at no cost.

STEP 2: OBTAIN EVIDENCE

Evidence must be submitted to support a disability claim. Evidence submitted at the time of filing will help expedite the claim. The disability evaluation will be based on the evidence provided so it is essential that the information submitted is accurate and complete. The VSO or VSR can assist by verifying service dates (based on the information furnished) and requesting the claimant's medical records.

The VA may request more information from the claimant. This may include letters detailing specific experiences in service or information on dependents, employment history, or income. Claimants can help speed the process by providing complete addresses for the medical care facilities that treated a claimant, being as exact as possible in reporting dates of treatment, and sending requested information as soon as possible.

STEP 3: GET A VA PHYSICAL EXAM

Often, the VA requests exams while waiting for other evidence to arrive. Sometimes, the VA reviews evidence to be certain it is requesting the proper exams. The exams the VA requests will depend on the claim and treatment history. The claimant's nearest VA Medical Center will schedule the requested exams and contact the claimant by mail and/or phone to let them know what exams are scheduled and when. After each exam, an examination report will be prepared and sent to the VA for review. Claimants can expedite this process by keeping exam appointments and by asking private medical providers to send copies of the claimant's records to the VA office right away. Claimants are asked to remind the private medical providers to include the VA file number on the records that they submit.

VA Claim Exam Step by Step

VA Claim Exam Fact Sheet

VA Claim Exam FAQ

STEP 4: THE VA RATES COMPLETE RECORD

The VA places a claimant's records in their claims folder as they are received.  The claim is ready to be rated when the VA has received all necessary evidence.  The VA evaluates all the medical evidence and other documents to support the medical condition and identifies how these conditions correspond to the rating schedule. This schedule, based on Congressional law, designates which disabilities can be compensated for and at what percentage.  The VA will pay the maximum benefit allowed by law based on the evidence submitted. If there is a change in disability after a claimant has filed a claim, or if the claimant wants the VA to evaluate additional disabilities, the claimant should let their veteran representative know as soon as possible.

STEP 5: THE VA MAKES A DECISION

After the rating is completed, the VA will notify the claimant of the decision made and provide the reasons for all decisions to grant or deny benefits. If the claimant does not agree with the VA's decision, they should use the appeal process. If a claimant has questions about their claim, they may call the VA at (800) 827-1000 toll free.

A number of factors (including, but not limited to, new Agent Orange presumptive diseases, better wounded warrior survival rates, the return of millions of deployed troops, and restructuring of the Military) have significantly increased the volume and processing time of compensation and pension claims. Some claimants have had to wait as long as two years for their claim to be processed.

What can veterans do to hasten the processing?

  • Work with a County Veterans Service Office to file your claim.
  • Be as thorough as possible when completing the claim application;
  • NEVER assume the VA has the necessary information on file;
  • ALWAYS sign the application form;
  • Include the VA file number on every page of correspondence or documentation  submitted to the VA;
  • Respond quickly and completely to  VA requests for  additional information;
  • Keep medical appointments scheduled;
  • Notify the VA facility that made the appointment if unable to keep it and reschedule as soon as possible;
  • If the veteran has been treated for a disability by private medical providers, ask them to send copies of the treatment record to the VA and include the VA file number;
  • Include the veteran's complete mailing address (with apartment number, if applicable) and, if possible, a daytime phone number (with area code) with any application or correspondence submitted;
  • Notify the VA immediately if a mailing address or phone number changes;

If in doubt about what to do at any time, call the VA at (800) 827-1000. Have the VA file number available to give to the person who offers assistance. If unable to locate the VA file number, have the veteran's social security number available. Surviving family members of veterans, should have the veteran's social security number available.

What If A Claim Is Denied or the Claimant Disagrees With The Decision?

If the VA denies a disability claim, the claimant may appeal the decision. A claimant may also appeal if the claim was approved, but the claimant disagrees with the percentage evaluation received, or the claimant thinks the effective date is inappropriate.

An appeal of a local decision involves many steps (some optional and some required) and strict time limits. In sequence, the steps are:

  1. Notice of Disagreement (NOD);
  2. Statement of the Case (SOC);
  3. Formal Appeal (VA Form 9 or equivalent);
  4. Hearings (Optional);
  5. Board of Veterans' Appeals (BVA);
  6. United States Court of Appeals for Veterans' Claims (CAVC).

The case may also involve remands at the BVA and/or Court of Veterans Appeals (COVA) levels. A claimant may have several appeals at once, and several issues may be included in the same appeal. Usually, all issues on one VA decision will be included in the same appeal.

1. NOTICE OF DISAGREEMENT

A Notice of Disagreement (NOD) is a written statement that a claimant disagrees with a decision the VA made regarding their claim. When submitting an NOD:

  • Claimants must be specific about their disagreement. If decisions were made on multiple items, claimants must be clear about which item they are addressing, and the NOD should be submitted on VA Form 21-0958;
  • A NOD can be accepted only if a final decision was made. Before benefits can be reduced or denied, the VA must send a "pre-determination notice." If a claimant did not receive paperwork describing the appeals process (VA Form 4107), check the letter to see if it is, in fact, a pre-determination notice;
  • Check the time limit. A NOD must be filed within one year of the date of the letter informing the claimant of the final VA decision. If a claimant has missed the filing deadline, they may file another claim for the same condition or request that  the previous claim be re-opened.

2. STATEMENT OF THE CASE

A Statement of the Case (SOC) is a summary of the evidence considered, actions taken, decisions made, and the laws governing the decision. A SOC must be done when a NOD is filed or when new evidence is received, and the VA does not overturn the decision on appeal with a full grant of benefits sought. Once the first SOC is completed on an appeal, subsequent SOCs are considered Supplemental Statements of the Case (SSOC). An appeal may have several SSOCs.

3. FORMAL APPEAL (VA FORM 9 OR EQUIVALENT)

An appeal must be formal before it can continue to higher levels. The standard form for formalizing (sometimes called perfecting) an appeal is the VA Form 9, Appeal to Board of Veterans' Appeals. This form must be received no later than one of these two dates:

  • one year from the date of the letter notifying the claimant of the decision
  • 60 days after the date of the Statement of the Case

4. HEARINGS (OPTIONAL)

Hearings provide an opportunity for claimants to present evidence in person; they are optional. Hearings are held at the VA Regional Office by a Decision Review Officer (DRO). The DRO will review the evidence and testimony and make a decision on the case. If the issue is not resolved in the claimant's favor, the appeal will continue.

5. BOARD OF VETERANS' APPEALS (BVA)

The Board of Veterans Appeals, located in Washington DC, is the highest appellate body in VA. Although most decisions are made in Washington, BVA does have travel boards that come to local offices. Because travel boards have been limited in the past couple of years, the pending workload at BVA has dramatically increased. It is not unusual for an appeal to take 2 years or more from the initial NOD to the final BVA decision.

BVA looks at all of the evidence regarding the issue under appeal. If BVA decides that more information is needed to make a decision, it will issue a remand to the local office. BVA will not reconsider the case until its instructions in the remand are done. If the evidence is sufficient, BVA will issue a decision. This is the final VA decision and the end of the appeal process. However, a BVA decision can be reviewed by the if an appeal to the court is filed within 120 days of the BVA decision.

6. UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR VETERANS' CLAIMS (CAVC)

The United States Court of Appeals for Veterans' Claims (CAVC), located in Washington DC, reviews matters of law regarding VA benefits and decisions. CAVC is not part of the VA; it is an appellate court in the U.S. judicial system. CAVC will only consider decisions made by the Board of Veterans Appeals after 1988. As in most courts, one must have either an attorney or personal knowledge of legal proceedings   to file the correct legal paperwork and conduct the appeal. CAVC decisions usually concern the procedural, legal issues involved in the "letter of the law". The deadline for filing an appeal to CAVC is 120 days after the BVA decision (using the date of the letter to the claimant informing them of the decision).

 

VA Inspector General Hotline
(53E)P.O. Box 50410
Washington, DC 20091
Hotline: (202) 565-7936 

VA Appeal Process toll-free number
(800) 827-1000.

Veterans Affairs Inspector General hotline
(800) 488-8244 (between 8:30 am: 4:00 pm EST, Monday through Friday, excluding Federal holidays)
e-mail at vaoighotline@va.gov.

Veterans and their dependents may be eligible for benefits administered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (USDVA). District office staff of the California Department of Veterans Affairs assist veterans and their dependents in obtaining these benefits through the process of application and representation of claims.

For additional information, contact one of our District Offices.

A County Veterans Service Office can assist in obtaining compensation benefits.

 

 

 

 

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