1. What are Veterans' Compensation Benefits?
Veterans' Compensation Benefits are intended to compensate veterans who have a medical or psychological condition that is connected to their military service. In general, three elements are necessary to prove a case:
1) A current medical or psychological condition, and
2) An event or condition that occurred during military service, and
3) A connection between the current condition and the event or condition during military service.
2. How do I file a claim?
There are three ways to file a claim:
1) If the claim is a new one, you may file an initial application with the VA Regional Office nearest you.
2) If the claim has been filed previously, but denied, you may file a request to reopen the claim. You will need "new and material" evidence to request reopening.
3) If you are already receiving VA benefits, you can request an increased rating.
3. What is the definition of Disability used by the VA?
For VA purposes you must have a medical condition that is severe enough to meet specific requirements for that condition.
4. Do I have to be totally disabled to get VA Compensation Benefits?
No. Many people work and still receive VA compensation benefits. Disability can be less than 100%. For example, if you have ringing in the ears, you may qualify for a 10% disability under hearing loss.
5. Why do I need an attorney?
VA laws and procedures are complicated. Many people think of the law in terms of just what has to be proved. But, the law also involves choices about how to proceed with a case. For example, should a hearing be requested, and if so, what kind of hearing and when should it be requested? Although no one is required to use an attorney, statistics show that you have a better chance of winning with an attorney.
6. How does the Veterans' Administration determine if I am disabled?
The VA gathers your medical records and considers your health problems. They then consider whether your medical condition meets the criteria for disability for that particular condition.
7. Is my age considered in determining VA Compensation Benefits?
No, age is not a consideration. A medical condition for a 30-year-old is evaluated the same way as for a 60-year-old. There is no age limit for receiving VA compensation benefits. Nor is there an age limit for applying for benefits, or requesting an increase in benefits.
8. How long do I have to wait after becoming disabled before I can file for VA Compensation Benefits?
You can file for VA compensation benefits at any time, but the effective date of your benefits is often determined by the date of your application. So, it's usually better to file as soon as possible.
9. What happens once I file a claim?
Once you file a claim, the case is sent to your VA Regional Office. They make the initial decision on the claim. If the Regional Office denies your claim, you may appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA). The Board is not bound by the decision of the Regional Office. Instead, the BVA makes a new decision in your case.
10. How long does it take before the VA Regional Office makes a decision once I file a claim?
It depends on the case and what is needed to evaluate it, but in many cases we don't expect a decision for at least five to six months. In some areas of the country it make take longer.
11. What do I do if the VA denies my claim for VA Compensation Benefits?
It is not unusual to get denied initially or to not be awarded as high a disability rating as desired. Even some seriously ill people are denied. You may appeal the denial to the Board of Veterans Appeals, but there is a time limit on how long you have to do so.
12. May I request a hearing where I can testify?
Yes. You can request a hearing at various points in the process. Whether to do so, and when, should depend on the specific facts and circumstances of your case.
13. What is a hearing like?
The hearings are fairly informal. There is no jury nor are there any public spectators at the hearing. The hearings are non-adversarial, which means that there is not a lawyer present to cross-examine you on behalf of the government.
14. My doctor says I am disabled so why is the VA denying my claim?
While your doctor knows all about your medical condition, the doctor may not know what is required to get VA compensation.
15. What if I am not receiving current medical treatment?
While it is not a legal requirement that you be receiving current medical treatment, for a practical matter, it is difficult to prove a case without current medical treatment.
16. I have several health problems; can I get VA Compensation for each one?
The VA is supposed to consider each condition as well as the combination of conditions and diseases in determining disability. You can receive a separate rating for each condition.
17. If I am approved for VA Compensation Benefits, how much will I get?
It depends on the percentage of disability. Everyone with the same percentage receives the same amount.
18. How far back will they pay benefits?
Usually benefits are paid from the date of your application. Sometimes benefits may be paid up to one year before the filing of the application, if the VA had notice of your medical condition. An example may be if you were treated for your service connected medical condition at a VA facility.
19. Are my spouse and children eligible for benefits?
Yes, your benefits are increased if you have a spouse or dependent child.
20. What if my medical condition gets worse after I am awarded benefits?
You can apply for an increased rating at any time.
21. Can I get worker's compensation and VA Compensation Benefits?
22. What if I receive Social Security Disability Benefits?
That's ok. VA compensation benefits are not reduced by Social Security disability benefits. Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI) are not reduced by VA compensation benefits either. But, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may be reduced by any VA benefits.
23. Do I have to be diagnosed with a medical condition during my military service to claim VA compensation?
No. All that is needed is that your condition "manifest" itself during your military service. Also, any condition that arises within one year of your discharge is presumed to have occurred during your military service.