The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has outlined eight steps that you must follow to apply for veterans benefits. While the process may seem relatively standard, each case that submitted to the VA is unique, meaning approval times and procedures may vary on a case-to-case basis.
8 Steps to Apply for Veterans Benefits
Step 1: The VA Receives Your Application for Veterans Benefits
After sending your veterans benefits application online or through the mail, you will receive confirmation from the VA that your application has been received. If you don’t, you can call your local regional office and request an update by phone. If you applied online through the VA’s eBenefits system, you can sign in at any time to check your claim’s status.
Step 2: The VA Reviews Your Claim
Once the VA receives your claim, they’ll assign a representative to review it. This representative must determine if you already submitted all evidence needed to support your claim. If your VA disability benefits application requires additional material to support your request, your application moves on to step 3. If the VA already has everything required to make a determination decision in your case, then your claim moves to step 5.
Step 3: Gathering of Evidence
What happens when the VA representative assigned to your claim cannot make a determination decision yet involving your application? If your representative needs additional medical evidence before approving or rejecting your disability claim, you’ll receive notice. In most cases, you can submit additional medical records as evidence supporting your disability benefits request. While this step may go faster if you’re being treated at a VA healthcare facility, private doctors should also know which forms you’ll need to submit this request. In some cases, you may need to undergo a second medical exam at a VA-approved facility before your claim can move forward.
Step 4: Review of Evidence
In this stage, the VA reviews all evidence you provided. Then, they decide if you must submit more documented evidence to prove your disability is service-connected or truly prevents you from working. If the VA requires more evidence to approve your claim, they’ll send it back to step 3. Having a VA-accredited attorney review your claim paperwork before you file is best way to avoid additional medical evidence requests delaying your benefit approval.
Step 5: Decision Preparation
In this step, a VA claims representative will begin preparing a determination decision regarding your benefits application. Your assigned representative may begin filling out the required paperwork to approve your claim or ask you to provide more evidence (see Step 3). Due to high VA claims inventory and backlog numbers, you may wait several months before hearing back about your claim.
Step 6: Pending Decision
Once your claim reaches this step, the VA reviews the recommendation made on your claim in order to reach a determination decision. Similar to the previous step, if the VA’s medical examiner feels additional medical evidence is needed, your claim may move back to step 3 in the application process. You may also need to have an independent medical examination confirming your disability before your claim can be approved. However, once the VA makes a determination decision, you typically receive notice in writing regarding your claim’s status.
Step 7: Notification Preparation
When your disability claim review is complete, the VA prepares a packet outlining details of their determination decision. Even if you submitted your disability benefits claim online through the eBenefits portal, the VA always notifies you about status updates by mail. Be sure to save a copy for your records in case you end up having to appeal an unfavorable decision from the VA.
Step 8: Decision Completion
This is the final step in the VA disability benefits application process. You’ll receive a mailed package detailing the VA’s decision concerning your claim. This package will outline your disability rating (listed as a percentage ranked from 10% to 100%), approval or denial status and expected benefits start date.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance That Helps You Apply for Veterans Benefits Faster
Many disabled veterans find the VA application process frustrating, confusing or both. The paperwork is often complicated, and denied applications take a heavy toll, both emotionally and financially. Veterans often cannot afford delayed benefits and struggle to find the strength to appeal their denied disability benefits claims. Having an attorney file your claim is the best way to maximize any monthly benefits the VA owes you.
Our experienced disability advocates and attorneys are happy to review your claim paperwork to ensure it’s free of basic errors. The VA mistakenly denies 1 in 10 qualified claimants each year, called “technical denials.”
However, 82% of vets with attorneys eventually prevail against the VA. In fact, most disabled vets win any benefits they’re rightfully owed at the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing stage. Unfortunately, waiting for an ALJ appeals hearing date can take more than a year. Having an attorney handle your claim can speed up the claim process and maximize any benefits you’re owed.
Need help with your initial veterans benefits application or preparing to appeal an unfavorable decision? Then you may qualify for legal assistance. This legal assistance comes in the form of a free phone call from an experienced veterans’ advocate near you. It’s the best and fastest way to get professional claim help without leaving your house. Best of all, this free phone consultation doesn’t obligate you to do anything else. Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now!