Filing veterans disability claims for monthly benefits may seem confusing to some disabled vets. From cutting through the red tape to managing your health issues, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But many applicants may not know there are procedures in place to help streamline this process. The fully developed claims process for disabled vets is just one example. Follow our step-by-step guide below to learn how to use this tool yourself.
What Are Fully Developed Veterans Disability Claims?
The VA reviews fully developed veterans disability claims (FDCs) quickly because they have everything they need already. That’s good if you have all your information handy when you apply, and frustrating if you missed something that results in your denial. FDCs help vets take control of their veterans disability claims and apply for benefits with less hassle. Anyone interested in filing FDCs can submit all relevant medical documentation with their initial application. This includes personal medical records and any other evidence that may support their claims.
It’s important to know that before submitting a fully developed claim, the VA requires you to certify that you’ve included all required documents along with your application. This certification means that once you submit your claim, you confirm it includes all your medical evidence. The VA guarantees filing a fully developed claim won’t affect the determination process. In other words, your claim will receive the same treatment as those submitted via traditional channels.
Fully Developed Veterans Disability Claims: How to Begin
The VA encourages filing veterans disability claims online through the agency’s website. You can do this through the eBenefits portal. While this portal serves as an online hub for veterans benefits information, it’s much more than that. This portal can help answer any questions you might have during the veterans disability claims process. Once you begin your claim online, the VA encourages you to find a Veterans Service Officer to help you submit your application and gather appropriate medical records.
5 Steps to Filing Fully Developed Veterans Benefit Claims
You can start your FDC online at any time. Once you create a profile and sign in through the eBenefits portal, just follow these steps:
Step 1: Log On, Then Hit “Save & Continue”
Click “Apply for Benefits,” and then click “Apply for Disability Compensation.”
Major pro tip: Answer a few questions, then immediately hit “Save & Continue.” This sets the data that the VA can use as a starting point for your claim. The day you hit “Save & Continue” is the day which the VA starts to owe you monthly benefit payments. Nothing’s final until you hit “Submit,” but the “Save & Continue” action is one simple, yet mostly-overlooked tip.
Step 2: Federal & State Medical Records
This is where you either submit your records or let the VA know where to request them from. For example: Do you currently get Social Security disability benefits? Be sure to disclose that information. Does any federal agency store medical records related to your injury or illness? Make sure you submit those records as well, or explain which agency the VA should pull them from.
Do you belong to the National Guard or Reserves? Submit any relevant treatment documents and personnel records held by your unit(s).
Step 3: Medical Evidence From Private (Civilian) Healthcare Providers
List any medical care you received from a private/civilian healthcare provider. Unfortunately, you’ll have to request these records and upload those copies yourself.
Some veterans will file claims for disabilities related to injuries or illnesses that don’t appear anywhere in their military records. Make sure to include statements supporting your claim if that’s true in your case. Some examples of statements that may help secure you VA disability benefits might include:
- Your own personal written statement explaining how your health issues limit your ability to complete everyday living tasks. These include things like cleaning, running errands, cooking, managing stress, parenting and performing job duties at work.
- Letters from people you trust describing how and when your condition started, plus how it limits your daily activities. Ask people who know you and your medical history well to write them, like counselors, clergy, teachers, friends, or relatives.
Step 4: Choosing Your Fully Developed Veterans Benefits Claim Type
You will want to research the required evidence for each of these claims, depending on which one fits your needs. Claim types you can file with the VA in order to request monthly benefits might include:
- Original claim: This type only applies to first-time disability compensation applicants.
- Increased claim: Requests a higher VA disability rating for a condition you already get benefits for that worsened.
- New claim: You already get some VA disability benefits, but want to submit a new benefit request. This might include things like VA unemployability benefits, special monthly payments or additional financial support.
- Secondary claim for an existing service-connected disability: Let’s say you need to undergo angioplasty for a blockage. You already get VA disability for hypertension and cholesterol, which caused this blockage. In this case, a secondary claim for the angioplasty applies in your case.
- Special claims: These include one-off requests or temporary disabilities, like when you’re recovering from knee-replacement surgery. Another example: You need access to a vehicle designed for people with mobility issues, such as driving while in a wheelchair.
- Supplemental claims: If the VA denies your first disability benefits claim and you don’t appeal in time, you may wish to file a supplemental claim later on. The only time we advise doing this is if you have new, relevant evidence to submit that supports your supplemental claim. For example: You applied for benefits with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). At the time, your doctor thought you fit the profile and prescribed you medication. One year after your denial, you complete a PTSD screening at a VA hospital that confirms your diagnosis.
Step 5: Upload Digital Copies of Your Medical Documentation
All your documents must be digital for this particular step. If you only have paper copies, scan them in and save them using an acceptable file format (i.e., JPEG or PDF). Then, use the “Upload Documents” tabs and “Manage Files” section to submit those documents electronically. You don’t have to do this all at once. Upload whatever you have available, save your work, and come back whenever you have more to add.
If you have legal representation or a Veterans Service Officer, they can 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 using your own computer, that’s okay. You can still fill out and submit a paper VA Form 21-526EZ to your regional VA office. Either a VA representative or your attorney can answer any questions you might have before submitting your paperwork. They can also help you connect to a Veterans Service Officer, similar to what online applicants experience.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Legal assistance works best for complicated veterans disability claims or after the VA initially denies you benefits. A VA-accredited attorney can review your application, gather proper medical records, and represent you during the appeals process. In fact, more than 4 in every 5 veterans with attorneys prevail against the VA in court. Why does that matter? Because the VA admits it got 1 in every 10 claims from veterans wrong in the past year. That means you may get lower VA benefits than you actually deserve based on their mistakes!
Every attorney we can connect you with works on contingency. That means you pay $0 for legal assistance if the VA doesn’t award you a cash settlement. And if you do win, then you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee. Why not sign up for a free phone call from a nearby VA-accredited lawyer today? It’s the fastest and easiest way to get confidential legal advice without leaving your house!
Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free veterans benefits evaluation now.
Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.