If you are eligible for Veterans Disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs, don’t let the complicated process stop you from getting the disability compensation you need and deserve.
While it is true that the VA claim process can be complex, with a little prior research and some patience, you can certainly navigate it successfully. If you know what common mistakes to avoid, that just puts you on an even better footing when starting out.
Common Mistakes in VA Disability Claims
- Providing incomplete information
- Not getting a medical opinion
- Failing to claim secondary conditions
You may have heard horror stories of lengthy applications, delayed processes, and hours of frustration when it comes to filing for veteran disability claims, but those stories are not everyone’s experience.
It is possible if you are well armed with information at the beginning, to smoothly navigate the entire process with minimal frustration. A good place to start is to avoid some of the more common pitfalls associated with VA disability claims.
This one is clear and simple: Don’t hesitate to file your VA disability claim – a delay can potentially cost you a lot of money. You will never receive VA benefits if you do not apply for them. It’s common for veterans to procrastinate because they don’t know if they’re eligible or because they want to wait and see if symptoms improve, or for a variety of other reasons. It is best to file your claim as soon as possible so that you can start receiving your benefits.
Please note that there is no statute of limitations when it comes to filing a Veterans Disability claim, but the wait rarely works in your favor in this case. If you receive compensation, either in your initial claim or as part of the appeal process, your benefits will be paid retroactively, from the date of your original claim.
Along with the initial procrastination, some Veterans believe that as long as they aren’t in too much pain or embarrassed by their condition, they should wait until they have more problems before claiming benefits.
But it can backfire if your condition suddenly gets worse. If you apply early, even if you score as low as 0 percent on a condition, you may receive VA benefits for that condition if it gets worse later in life. If you are applying early, even if you are not sure if you need benefits, you will probably be glad you did.
Providing Incomplete Information
The VA disability claim process is not easy – you have to prove several things: that you are eligible for VA disability benefits, that you have a current disability, that something happened to you while in service is the cause of this disability and your condition is considered medically serious enough to merit VA benefits.
Getting your application approved isn’t as easy as filling out a form and submitting it, and there is nothing to be taken lightly or taken casually. You’ll need medical documents, along with statements from friends, family, and colleagues about how your condition affects your day-to-day life, to get started.
You will need to do some legwork to gather and submit the right types of documentation. For many applicants this is very difficult, especially in the first round, but incomplete documentation is a very common reason that first-time applications are refused. You should invest the time and effort to collect and submit the kind of documentation that will help your application get approved quickly.
You can even go a step further and make sure your documentation is well organized and easy for a VA examiner to understand. It is not enough to throw hundreds of pages of documentation at the people reviewing your complaint. Help them follow your story and see that your complaint is legitimate.
Not Getting a Medical Opinion
VA officials will rely heavily on medical diagnosis and opinion to determine if you are eligible to receive VA disability benefits. They can’t just take your word for it – or that of anyone who isn’t a healthcare professional.
Failure to provide all the information VA officials need to make their decision is one of the main reasons many applications are turned down on the first request.
If you can provide a written statement from your doctor linking your disability to your time on duty, this is an extremely useful document – both for those making the decision and for your case.
It can make a huge difference in the success of your claim. You must be able to present medical evidence demonstrating the details and medical treatment of the condition in question – failure to include a medical diagnosis linking your condition to your time on active duty or other military service will almost result in certainly a denial of claim.
Failing to Claim Secondary Conditions
Many veterans who apply for VA disability benefits do not realize that they are also eligible for VA benefits related to secondary conditions, even pre-existing ones that exist outside of their service-related disability.
But often this is exactly the case. It is not uncommon for a service-related disability to amplify an existing health problem or even lead to the development of a new additional disability. Even if secondary disabilities don’t develop until years later, there is still a chance that you will be eligible for a related VA disability award.
Should I Hire a VA Disability Lawyer?
Hiring a veterans compensation lawyer is always a personal choice you must make based on the best information you have. Ultimately, you’ll want to hire a veterans disability lawyer if you think that lawyer can do better for you than you were able to achieve on your own.