Important: We updated this page in November 2023 to ensure all info below is correct. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has eight steps you must follow to apply for veterans benefits. While the process may seem relatively standard, each case the VA reviews is unique. For this reason, approval times and procedures may vary.
8 Steps to Apply for Veterans Benefits
Step 1: The VA Receives Your Application for Veterans Benefits
After you apply for veterans benefits online or through the mail, you will receive confirmation from the VA that they got your claim. 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 you apply for veterans benefits, the VA assigns 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? If the VA needs additional medical evidence to complete your claim review, they will notify you.
In most cases, you can submit additional medical records as evidence that supports your claim. While this step may go faster if a VA medical facility treats you, private doctors should also know which forms to submit for 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 documents 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 help you apply for veterans benefits is best way to avoid additional medical evidence requests delaying your claim’s 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 requires additional medical evidence, then your claim may move back to step 3. You may also need an independent medical exam that confirms your disability before the VA can approve your claim. 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 listing all the details of their determination decision. Even if you applied for veterans benefits online through the eBenefits portal, the VA always sends your status updates by mail. Be sure to save a copy for your records in case you end up having to appeal.
Step 8: Decision Completion
This is the final step that happens when you apply for veterans benefits. You’ll receive a mailed package that explains 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 admits it makes mistakes while reviewing at least 1 in 10 claims each year. These mistakes are sometimes called “technical denials.”
However, 82% of vets with attorneys eventually prevail against the VA. In fact, most disabled vets win benefits 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 review process and maximize your monthly payments.
Need help with your initial veterans benefits application or preparing to appeal a denial? 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 call doesn’t require you to do anything else.
Want free expert help when you apply for veterans benefits from the VA? Click the button below to start your free online benefits quiz now and see if you may qualify: