Skip to main content
For Immediate Help: 800-544-9144
Veterans Law

What Is a VA Development Letter?

Michael Lostritto

July 10, 2024

What Is a VA Development Letter?

Over the lifetime of a VA disability benefits claim or appeal, veterans may receive many types of letters from VA. One of the letters that veterans ask about most often is the VA development letter. This letter provides the status of a veteran’s disability claim and lists additional information that VA needs to process their claim.

This article will explain the significance of a VA development letter, the key parts of the letter, and answers to the questions we see most frequently asked by veterans.

Who We Are: Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick is the leading veterans law firm in America. Since 1999, CCK has argued many of the cases that have shaped veterans law. As an appellate firm, we have secured more than $1 billion in wrongfully denied benefits for our clients.

Why Does VA Send Development Letters?

A VA development letter—also called a VA claim notification letter—is a letter that VA sends to veterans to notify them about the status of their disability claims. This type of letter typically has two purposes:

  • Update the veteran on the current status of their claim
  • Specify any additional information or evidence that is necessary to evaluate the claim

One reason that VA may send this letter is that the initial review of evidence did not find information VA expected, such as medical records, service records, or other additional evidence that often accompanies similar claims.

VA Development Letter vs. Decision Letter: What Veterans Need to Know

What Are the Key Components of VA Development Letters?

  • Claim Status—VA will provide an update on where the claim stands in the review process (e.g., under review, assigned to a reviewer, etc.).
  • Missing Evidence—This letter will list any missing documentation that VA wants before deciding the claim. This can include medical evidence, service records, or similar types of evidence.
  • Due Dates—VA will provide a specific deadline for the claimant to respond to the letter. If possible, it is crucial for the claimant to provide the requested information prior to the deadline to prevent delays in processing the claim.
  • Contact Information—The development letter should include details on how to reach the VA representative handling the claim for answers or assistance.

How to Respond to a VA Development Letter

Respond Promptly to Deadlines

Responding properly to a development letter can help strengthen the evidentiary record, giving a veteran’s claim the best chance of success.

A VA development letter will explicitly state the due date or timeframe for submitting the requested information or evidence. Typically, the due date is between 30 and 60 days from the date of the letter. It is essential to respond before the deadline to prevent any delays or complications in the processing of a claim.

Respond Completely to Requests

  • It can be helpful to begin gathering the required documents or records immediately upon receiving the letter. This helps ensure that there is ample time to collect everything and review it thoroughly before submission.
  • Claimants should be sure to keep records and copies of everything sent to VA. Sometimes, VA can lose track of pieces of evidence. Submitting a copy of the record, instead of the original document, can prevent the loss of original evidence.
  • Using certified mail with a return receipt can also be beneficial. This allows veterans to have proof of timely submission and keep track of where their evidence is in the mail.

FAQs About VA Development Letters

Does a VA Development Letter Mean a Claim Decision is Coming Soon?

Receiving a VA development letter does not necessarily mean that a decision on a veteran’s claim is imminent. VA sends development letters whenever it finds that it needs additional information or evidence to continue evaluating the claim.

What Should I Do if I Never Received a VA Development Letter?

Not all veterans receive a VA development letter when filing a disability claim. A VA development letter is sent when VA needs additional information or evidence to properly evaluate and decide a veteran’s claim.

Development letters are most commonly sent when VA’s initial review does not find expected information like medical records, service records, or other supporting evidence that usually accompanies similar claims.

Does Receiving a VA Development Letter Mean Something is Wrong with My Claim?

Receiving a development letter does not mean there is a problem with the claim. It is simply VA’s way of gathering evidence before issuing a decision.

I Don’t Understand My VA Development Letter. Who Can Help?

For initial claims, veterans can request help from a VA-accredited representative like a Veterans Service Organization (VSO). The law permits VSOs to provide free assistance to veterans going through the claims process.

What Happens if I Fail to Respond to a VA Development Letter?

If a veteran fails to respond to a VA development letter, VA may issue a rating decision based on existing evidence. This can be detrimental to a claim if the veteran’s claim did not include key supporting evidence.

Did VA Make a Mistake? Contact CCK

The VA claims process is complex and time-consuming. If you experience issues due to a VA development letter, then you have a right to appeal VA’s decision. Doing so promptly can preserve the effective date of your claim and ensure that VA backdates your benefits properly.

The law permits VA-accredited law firms or advocates to assist veterans with the appeals process. To request a free case evaluation from CCK, the most experienced veterans law firm in the U.S., please call 800-544-9144 or contact us online. Our accredited veterans advocates and attorneys may be able to help you too.

About the Author

Bio photo of Michael Lostritto

Michael joined CCK in September of 2016 as an Attorney, was named Supervising Attorney in 2021, and now serves as a Managing Attorney. His practice focuses on the representation of disabled veterans before the Department of Veterans Affairs and the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

See more about Michael