How to Apply for Veterans’ Disability Benefits Through the VA

Disabled veterans are eligible to receive disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, many qualified veterans don't apply for benefits, either because they are unsure of their rights or because they are intimidated by the process. Others are initially denied because they do not provide sufficient medical evidence.

If you are considering applying for veterans' disability benefits, it is always a good idea to get the help of a veterans' disability attorney who can make sure your application is completed and processed correctly. With that said, there are some things that every potential applicant can benefit from knowing.

Who qualifies for VA disability benefits?

VA benefits are intended for veterans who have a service-related disability. This can be either a disease or injury received while on duty, or a pre-existing disease or injury that was made worse by military service. Veterans who were disabled as a result of VA healthcare may also qualify.

In order to be eligible for VA disability compensation, the veteran must not have been dishonorably discharged from military service.

How do you apply?

The first step is to fill out a form called "Veterans Application Compensation and/or Pension." The application can be filled out online, or an applicant can obtain a paper copy from their local VA. Along with the application, the veteran must provide a copy of their discharge or separation papers, proof of any dependents (spouse or children) and medical evidence documenting the service-related disability.

After the initial application is received, the VA will send a letter to the applicant with a request for more information and evidence of the claimed disability.

Is there an independent investigation?

Yes. The VA may order an applicant to participate in a medical examination. The content of the investigation will vary based on the type of disability claimed. Psychiatric investigations tend to take longer than physical examinations.

In addition, the VA will review all of the applicant's records to determine whether there is a bona fide service-connected disability that qualifies for benefits. The VA does not always agree with the conclusions drawn by an applicant's personal physician.

What if the application is denied?

Applicants who are denied have a right to appeal the VA's determination. If the applicant has not already contacted a veterans' disability attorney, it is advisable to do so before pursuing an appeal. However, it is important to act quickly, since the time for appeal is limited.