Congratulations on the Next Chapter

Ending your military career is very stressful.  Whether retiring, completing your enlistment period obligation, or the unfortunate nature of going through a medical board – We have all asked the question, “WHAT’S NEXT?” 

 I want to alleviate some of this stress while giving you a little insight on how to make the transition a little easier from Military Service Member to VETERAN.

Here is the information that you NEED prior to your last day of Active Military Service pertaining to VA DISABILITY BENEFITS.

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The VA provides compensation to disabled veterans who suffer from a medical disorder or injury that was incurred in, or aggravated by, their military service, and which causes social and occupational impairment.

Three words are KEY from this statement to guiding you through this complex, but NOT DIFFICULT process of filing a disability claim with the VA.

INCURRED IN, AGGRAVATED BY, and WHICH CAUSES: These 3 phrases are very important when describing your medical conditions to the VA. And they are very simple for you to remember when seeking medical assessments from a physician.

INCURRED IN: simply means an injury or illness sustained while on active duty. Injury examples can be a lower back sprain sustained while on a road march, or a knee injury from a fall, a Traumatic Brain Injury caused by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device), or a lost limb sustained during Airborne or Assault Operations.

While an illness can be anything from frost bite to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, abnormal weight loss, fatigue, cardiovascular disease, muscle and joint pain, headache, menstrual disorders, neurological and psychological problems, skin conditions, respiratory disorders, and sleep disturbances, even allergies and asthma.

AGGRAVATED BY: This one is a little more complex, however, it’s still a symptomatic issue recognized by the VA. A good example of an aggregated injury is: prior to your entrance into the military you broke a collar bone, however it healed perfectly and you were granted a waiver to enter military service. During combative training you re-injure that collar bone. Since the original injury was not sustained during your active service time, in the eyes of the VA, this old injury was aggravated by an act of your military service. Unless there is a specific finding that the increase in disability is due to the natural progression of the disease.

Other good examples are hearing loss, flat feet, hypertension, major depression, bronchial asthma, or impairment or limited motion of the knee, ankle, or leg.

The last of the 3 important phrases is WHICH CAUSES: Sometimes a service-connected condition can cause additional conditions to appear in the future, either physical or psychological displacement.

The best examples of this would be Post Traumatic Stress and the unfortunate cases involving Military Sexual Trauma.

Disability Compensation is a tax free monetary benefit paid to Veterans with disabilities that are the result of a disease or injury incurred in or aggravated by active military service. Compensation may also be paid for post-service disabilities that are considered related or secondary to disabilities occurring in service and for disabilities presumed to be related to circumstances of military service, even though they may arise after service.

The best way to apply for disability compensation is:

ONLINE

By obtaining an e-Benefits account https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/apply#compensation  

When applying for compensation benefits, you must have access to the following information:

  • Discharge or separation papers (DD214 or equivalent)
  • Medical evidence (doctor and hospital reports)
  • Dependency records (marriage and children’s birth certificates)

VIA MAIL

Alternatively, you may print and mail-in VA Form 21-526EZ, along with your service records above, or call the VA at 1-800-827-1000 to have the form mailed to you

VIA PHONE

Visit your local VA office and already have form VA Form 21-526EZ filled out and completed. Along with the forms below:

    • Discharge or separation papers (DD214 or equivalent)
    • Medical evidence (doctor and hospital reports)
    • Dependency records (marriage and children’s birth certificates)

 

There is a difference between a denied claim and a 0% rating. A denied claim is usually when the Department of Veterans Affairs cannot establish a condition related to service. On the other hand a 0% is when the DVA has acknowledged the disability as a result of service but your symptoms and/or current medical condition are not significant enough to warrant a higher rating.

Getting your claim denied can be frustrating and heartbreaking, after the Veterans Benefits Administration makes a decision on your claim, you can appeal some or all of the decision if you disagree with it.

Appeals Reform was officially implemented on February 19, 2019. In this new system, veterans have one year to appeal an unfavorable decision from VA by choosing one of the following three review options: Filing a

  1. Supplemental Claim
  2. Higher Level Review or
  3. Notice of Disagreement with the Board of Veteran Appeals

Supplemental Claim

To file a supplemental claim, a VA form 21-0995 should be submitted with new and relevant evidence. New and relevant evidence defined by the VA is simply evidence not previously submitted.

Higher Level Review

Submitting VA Form 21-0996 is a request for a higher level review. Which means you are requesting your claim to be reviewed by a more senior claims adjudicator.

Veterans can appeal their claims directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Previously under the legacy appeals system (i.e. the old appeals system), veterans who received unfavorable decisions were required to overcome additional procedural hurdles when appealing to the Board, including the filing of an additional form and subsequent VA processing. However, the Notice of Disagreement lane under Appeals Reform removes these additional steps.

By directly appealing to the Board, VA is hoping to prevent a backlog of claims and significantly decrease veterans’ amount of wait time when it comes to receiving decisions.

When appealing directly to the Board under Appeals Reform, veterans will be required to submit a Notice of Disagreement form that is different from the one used in the legacy appeals system. On this form (VA Form 10182), veterans must identify the specific determination with which they disagree, and indicate which docket they are choosing. Specifically, veterans will be required to choose from an additional three lanes at the Board level:

  1. Direct Review Docket: For veterans who do not want to submit additional evidence to the Board, and do not want a hearing before a Veterans Law Judge. In this docket, the Board will look only at the evidence that was in the veteran’s file when the appealed decision was issued.
  2. Hearing docket. For veterans who want to have a hearing before a Veterans Law Judge. The only hearing options available to veterans under Appeals Reform will be a video conference hearing and a hearing at the Board in Washington, D.C. Travel board hearings, held by Veterans Law Judges at local Regional Offices, will only be available to veterans in the Legacy appeals system. Additional evidence can be submitted up to 90 days from when the hearing is held.
  3. Evidence docket. For veterans who want to submit additional evidence but do not want a hearing. Veterans can submit additional evidence to the Board along with their Notice of Disagreement and within 90 days following submission of the Notice of Disagreement.

Any unfavorable decision made by the BVA is final, if the veteran does not continue the claim.

The most popular recommendation is to have a service organization (DAV, VSO, AL American Legion) or an attorney or claims agent recognized by the VA, to assist you in the claims processing. Remember these organizations are trained to assist in Veteran benefits.

VA BENEFITS OVERVIEW

GET BENEFITS SOONER

BDD OR QUICK START?

TIPS to PREPARE VA CLAIM EXAM

NEW APPEALS PROCESS

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