What Are Fully Developed Veterans Disability Claims?

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Getting started on your veterans disability claim is sometimes easier said than done. From cutting through the red tape, to managing your disability, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. But many applicants may not be aware that there are procedures in place, like the fully developed claims program, that can help streamline the process.

What is a fully developed claim?

Fully developed veterans disability claims (often called FDCs) reach decisions faster—that’s good if you have all the information you need, and frustrating if you find out you get denied because you missed something. FDCs offer veterans the opportunity to take control of their claim and apply for benefits in a timely manner. According to the VA, veterans who are interested in applying will simply submit all relevant medical documentation with their initial application. This includes personal medical records and any other evidence that may pertain to their case.

It’s important to keep in mind that before you can submit a fully developed claim, the VA will require that you certify all documentation is included with you application. This certification means that once your claim is submitted, all your medical evidence is submitted with it. The VA guarantees that filing a fully developed claim will not affect they determination process and your claim will receive the same treatment as those submitted through the traditional methods.

How to start a fully developed claim

The VA encourages those preparing to apply to do so electronically using the eBenefits portal. This portal is not only a hub for veterans benefits information, but it can be used as a reference point for any questions that may arise during the process. Once you begin your claim online, the VA encourages you to secure a Veterans Service Officer who can help you submit your application and gather appropriate medical records.

Veterans can start an FDC online at any time. Here’s a primer for what you’ll find after you create a profile and log on to the eBenefits portal:

Phase 1: Logging on and hitting “Save & Continue”

Click “Apply for Benefits” and then “Apply for Disability Compensation.”

Here’s a critical pro tip: answer a few of the questions you see on the screen, and immediately hit “Save & Continue”—this is going to set a data that the VA can use as your starting point of your claim. The day you hit “Save & Continue” is the day which the VA starts to owe you benefits payments. Nothing will be finalized until you hit “Submit,” but the “Save & Continue” action is a simple yet overlooked pro tip.

Phase 2: Federal and state records

This is where you either submit all your records or let the VA know where those records may be. Are you receiving Social Security benefits for your injury? Disclose that information. Does any federal agency have records related to your injury? Make sure you submit those records or tell them which agency holds them.

If you are National Guard or Reserves, you should submit relevant treatment documentation and personnel records held by your unit(s).

Phase 3: Non-federal documents

Any care you received from a private/civilian provider needs to be recorded. You will have to request these records and upload them yourself.

Some veterans are claiming disability for an injury that may not be recorded in military records. Make sure to include statements supporting your claim—that includes your personal statement, plus a statement from counselors, clergy, law enforcement, friends, family, and anyone else with any knowledge of your medical condition, where you developed it, and how it happened.

Phase 4: Choosing your type of claim

You will want to research the evidence required for each of these, but here’s a primer: you can make an original disability claim, new disability claim, a reopened disability claim, a claim for increased disability, or a secondary disability claim. Some claims, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), require additional documentation, so make sure you are well prepared before submitting your entire claim.

Phase 5: Upload the documentation

All your documents need to be digital for this particular process. If you only have paper copies, scan them and use the “Upload Documents” tabs and “Manage Files” section to put everything in. You don’t have to do it all at once—you can upload whatever you have available, save your work, and come back to it when you get more documents.

If you have legal representation or a Veterans Service Officer, they will be able to double-check your claim and make sure you’re ready to hit “Submit.”  If you’re not comfortable applying online or do not have the means to do so, it’s ok. The VA will allow you to fill out and submit VA Form 21-527EZ to your regional VA office. There a representative may be able to help you with any questions you may have about the procedure. They can also help you connect to a Veterans Service Officer, similar to what online applicants will experience.

Do I need legal representation?

Securing legal assistance usually comes into play when veterans have complicated claims or when they receive a unfavorable claims decision. A VA-accredited attorney can help you contact the VA on your behalf, gather proper medical records, and walk you through the appeals process.

If you’re ready to get connected simply click on the button below and check your eligibility.

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