How to Get a Copy of Your VA Award Letter
What is a VA Award Letter?
A VA award letter is issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) when a decision has been made regarding a veteran’s claim for benefits. Specifically, this letter indicates a veteran’s disability rating(s) along with the corresponding amount of monthly compensation. The date of a VA award letter is especially important, because veterans will have one year from that date to file a timely appeal.
What Does a VA Award Letter Look Like?
A VA award letter will typically begin with VA stating, “we made a decision on your claim for disability benefits.” The letter will then guide the veteran through the details surrounding the decision and include information regarding the next steps a veteran may take now that a decision has been issued. There will also be a section listing the claimed conditions and a brief description of the decision. For example, if a veteran was granted an increased rating for PTSD, this section might display the following:
- Evaluation of post-traumatic stress disorder, which is currently evaluated at 30 percent disabling, is increased to 50 percent disabling effective January 29, 2012
Here, the VA award letter indicates which disability rating is assigned and also provides the effective date for the award. Following this written description, the VA award letter may also include a combined rating evaluation table, showing the veteran’s combined disability rating as it relates to the effective dates. Using the example provided above, the combined rating evaluation table might look like this if the veteran is service-connected for PTSD alone:
|Combined Disability Rating||Effective Date|
|30%||February 11, 2009|
|50%||January 29, 2012|
Subsequently, the VA award letter may include another table regarding payments that demonstrates the amount of monthly compensation the veteran will receive as it corresponds to the combined evaluations and effective dates listed above. This table will also indicate the reason for each monthly payment as shown below:
|Monthly Entitlement Amount||Payment Start Date||Reason|
|$417.15||March 1, 2009||Cost of Living Adjustment|
|$417.15||March 1, 2010||Cost of Living Adjustment|
|$417.15||March 1, 2011||Cost of Living Adjustment|
|$855.41||February 1, 2012||Compensation Rating Adjustment|
Beneath this table, the VA award letter will also indicate the number of dependents for which the veteran is receiving additional compensation. If the veteran is not receiving dependency benefits, it willy typically state, “We are currently paying you as a single veteran with no dependents.”
How to Get a Copy of a VA Award Letter
As outlined above, VA award letters are very important documents because they break down decisions, appeal options, disability ratings, and monthly compensation amounts to veterans. As such, veterans should request and obtain copies of their VA award letters if they do not receive them through the mail. There are several ways for veterans to obtain a copy of their VA award letter, including the following:
eBenefits is a secure web portal created by VA and the Department of Defense (DoD) in an effort to provide veterans, service members, and their families self-service capabilities in managing VA and military benefits. This portal allows veterans, service members, and their families an array of self-service functions such as checking the status of a VA claim, applying for benefits, and obtaining a copy of a VA award letter.
To access eBenefits, veterans and service members must be listed in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) and create a DS login. If a veteran is not in the DEERS system, their local VA Regional Office can assist them. This login is how veterans will access eBenefits and it remains valid for the rest of their lives. In order to access the full range of features eBenefits has to offer, it is recommended by VA that veterans register for DS Logon 2 (Premium). Both the basic and premium options are at no cost to veterans; however, the premium login provides users with much greater access to their information and allows them to utilize more features than the basic login offers.
Ultimately, veterans can locate their VA award letters in the eBenefits system by logging in and following these steps:
- Clicking on the “Manage” tab
- Clicking on “Documents and Records”
- Clicking on “VA Letters”
- Finding and selecting “Benefit Summary – Veteran Benefits”
- Checking/unchecking different boxes to determine the information that will included in the downloaded letter (e.g., information about recent periods of military service, service-connected conditions, etc.)
- Click on the blue “Generate Benefits Summary Letter” button
- Review the VA award letter
- Save the letter either physically (click printer icon) or digitally (click “Save” icon)
Veterans can also obtain VA award letters by reaching out to their local Regional Offices and requesting a copy. It should take several days to weeks for the Regional Office to mail a hard copy of the VA award letter to the veteran.
Veterans who have advocates or representatives assisting with their cases can also request for those individuals to obtain a copy of the VA award letter through the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) – an online database containing all documents relevant to a veteran’s claims for disability compensation.
Appealing VA Decisions
If a veteran is dissatisfied with the outcomes listed on their VA award letter, they have the right to file an appeal. For example, a veteran may want to file an appeal if their claim was denied, or if they are unhappy with the rating and/or effective date assigned by VA. If a decision is not appealed in a timely manner, it will become final.
If veterans received a rating decision and VA award letter after February 19, 2019, their appeals will be processed in the new Appeals Modernization Act (AMA) system. Under AMA, there are three appeal options to appeal an initial rating decision: (1) higher-level review lane; (2) supplemental claim lane; and (3) Notice of Disagreement lane (i.e., Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals).
Help for Denied VA Claims
If your VA disability benefits claim has been denied, do not give up the fight. The VA disability attorneys and advocates at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD may be able to help. Contact us at 800-544-9144.
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