FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
I am a Veteran and do not know where to turn. What do you suggest?
You or a family member can contact your local VA Regional Office 1-800-827-1000 or by logging onto the www.va.gov website for information. However, I do not recommend that you fill out the paperwork by yourself. I suggest contacting a Veteran Service Officer (VSO) or a County Counselor to assist you navigating the VA. Without an expert watching over your claim, your case could get lost in the system. Also, a VSO or County Counselor can check to see if you are eligible for other benefits.
As a Veteran, what is the most important thing that I do?
Well, there are really two very important issues to address in this answer. Enrolled in the VA and get your DD214 – Discharge Papers.
How do I get a copy of my DD214?
What does service connection mean?
Service connection means that a chronic disability arose coincidental with military service. It is important to establish that your injury or illness is service-connected if you want disability compensation from VA.
Can I receive social security disability benefits and disability compensation benefits at the same time?
Yes, you can receive Social Security disability insurance as well as your VA service-connected compensation benefits. These payments are tax free.
How long does it take to process the application and get approved?
This is a difficult question to answer. Much depends on the VA Regional Office for your area. On average, 6 to 9 months seems to be the normal approval time at the moment. Some approvals come through in as little as 6 weeks, but these are the exception. We know of people still waiting for an approval 12 months from the date of filing.
Keep in mind that if the benefit is granted, the award is from the date application is filed with VA. Also, if the applicant is over 70 years old, include a letter requesting that the application be expedited. The VA is supposed to give priority to any application for benefits by a veteran 70 or older.
How do I file a claim for benefits?
By completing and mailing to your local VA Regional Office VA Form 21-526, Veterans Application for Compensation and/or Pension. Attach any supportive evidence, such as medical records to the application. You may request the form be sent to you by calling 1-800-827-1000 or your may print a copy from the VA website, www.VA.com. You can also apply online at www.VA.gov.
Can I reopen an old claim?
Veterans’ disability claims, once decided and not appealed, become final and binding. There are two basic ways in which a finally decided claim determination may be challenged. The first is by the use of Clear & Unmistakable Error. The other process is of reopening a finally decided claim by the use of “new and material evidence”. Generally, the vet is trying to reopen a denial of a “service connection” for his claimed disability.
If the veteran is seeking to increase the amount of a disability rating percentage, the remedy is to file a claim seeking to increase the disability percentage. The veteran in this case is not reopening the claim. New and material evidence is a high legal threshold. If the VA determines the evidence is both “new” and “material”, the VA will reopen the claim. That is not to say it will eventually grant the claim. It is just that the veteran is given the chance to once again prove the merits of his or her claim.
What is TDIU?
TDIU stands for Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability. It is also called IU and Unemployability. TDIU is based on a regulation that allows veterans who have less than a 100% schedular rating to receive 100% disability pay where the veteran’s service connected disability causes a total inability to work. In order to qualify for this rating, the veteran must have one service connected of 60% or a combination of ratings totaling 70% with one of the included ratings being at least 40%. Once these rating qualifications are met, the veteran is entitled to the benefit if he or she can show that the service connected disability has caused a total inability to work.
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