Applying for disability through the Veterans Administration can be a daunting task. In fact, many veterans make common mistakes that delay their claims or create incorrect denials or low disability ratings. You can avoid this delay by avoiding these common mistakes.
Waiting to file: Please don’t wait until you have collected enough evidence or your symptoms worsen to get a higher disability rating. The sooner you file, the sooner your effective date will begin. This effective date will set your date for retroactive benefits when you finally are awarded a claim. You can submit supplemental evidence as it becomes available, and you can always apply for an increased rating as your symptoms worsen, so start the process now. In addition, your filing triggers the VA’s “duty to assist.” They are required to offer assistance in obtaining your medical records from VA hospitals and your duty records. However, we do not recommend you wait for them, since they have hundreds of claims to process and you only have your own. So try to find the information yourself, but know that the VA is a good backup.
Completing forms incorrectly: The VA allows you to file online, via mail or fax, or at your VA Regional Office, with the help of the staff there. The forms can seem long and confusing. Take some time to research how to complete them accurately to avoid delays. If you do make a mistake and are contacted by the VA, complete the corrections as quickly as possible to maintain your effective date.
Not filing for a secondary condition at the same time: Frequently, your service-related condition can cause secondary problems. There are many conditions that are recognized as secondary conditions by the VA, and it is likely that much of the evidence needed to support a secondary claim is also used in your primary claim. So do them at the same time, starting the effective date for both conditions early on in your filings with the VA.
Not filing for mental health issues: This is not the time to be tough. Depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health issues are common among veterans. You have put yourself in harm’s way for our nation’s safety, and that takes a toll on your mind as well as your body. You deserve to be compensated for any issues you may be experiencing from your time serving our country.
Not including a medical opinion: Don’t depend on the Compensation & Pension (C&P) exam alone. The C&P exam may not adequately reflect the extent of your disabilities. A letter from a medical expert, also called a nexus letter, can make a significant difference in your disability benefits. This letter is completed by a private medical professional, giving a thorough description of your current condition and explicitly connecting it to your military service.
Providing too much evidence: After reading about all the possible conditions you could apply for – primary, secondary, mental health – you might think that more is better. However, this is not necessarily the case. VA raters are human beings and very busy human beings at that. Wading through hundreds of pages of information, much of it irrelevant to the claim, takes time, makes it very difficult to find the truly valuable information, and might cause the rater to speed through your claim and give you an inaccurate rating. Make sure you send all the necessary information but include a “table of contents” page, listing what is included in your packet, and organize your packet neatly.
Not appealing the VA’s decision: If your claim is denied or if you receive a rating that you believe is lower than it should be, you have the right to appeal. Appeal the decision in a timely manner in order to maintain your effective date. If the claim is “abandoned” and you decide to try again in the future, your effective date will be restarted, and your retroactive benefits will only go back to the date of the refiling. So appeal quickly.
Not seeking help: Your VSO and your regional VA office are there to help you accurately complete your filing. Veterans’ attorneys can help with the initial process but are absolutely indispensable if you need to appeal. We know the VA system thoroughly, and we will be able to determine what additional information you need to provide to the VA or what approach is most likely to get you the best outcome. At the Law Offices of Robert B. Goss, Veterans’ Attorney, helping veterans with their VA claims is our focus. We are veterans ourselves, so we know from personal experience what you’re going through, and we’re committed to helping you get the benefits you deserve. Reach out to us today at 877-425-4VET (4838) from anywhere in the world to find out how we can serve you.