Throughout the disability compensation claim process, there is a corresponding form for nearly every action you wish to take. VA requires veterans to complete certain forms at specific times in order to have their claim considered. This post will highlight common VA forms, explain the function of each, and provide some of the timelines involved in submitting them. Whether you are filing an initial claim, appealing a decision, or seeking an increased rating, VA has a form for that.
Before we begin, it is important to keep a few helpful tips in mind:
- Make copies of everything so that you can keep track of your own claim, and never send original documents to the VA. Always send copies.
- Adhere to deadlines set in place by the VA, otherwise your claim or appeal will not be considered timely, and you may get denied.
- Send documents via certified mail so that you are sure VA has received them.
- Keep the VA updated as to your current marital status so that missteps such as overpayment can be avoided. Notifying VA of a change of address is also an important action to take in order to prevent VA from sending notices and sensitive medical information to an outdated home address.
- Seek assistance from a VSO or VA accredited claims representative if at any point you feel as though you need help completing these forms.
- 21-526EZ: Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits — is your formal application for VA disability compensation. Before beginning to fill out this form, be sure to read the instructions carefully. Included under the “evidence tables” section of the 526EZ, VA lists the information that you should provide in order to best support your claim. Reading this information can offer insight as to how to prove your claim, and how your claim will be reviewed by VA.
Those filing under “special circumstances,” such as the need for Aid and Attendance or Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability, should read the corresponding instructions listed under that circumstance. The information contained in this section lists the supplementary forms that you must submit along with the 21-526EZ in order for your claim to be considered.
It is important to submit as much relevant evidence as you have with your 21-526EZ.This evidence can include: service personnel records and documents such as your DD214; service treatment records; and current medical records.
You can request that VA takes on the responsibility of obtaining the private medical records it needs to support your disability claim by submitting VA Form 21-4142: Authorization to Disclose Information to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Federal treatment records (i.e. service treatment records or VA medical records) will be gathered by VA only if you “adequately identify [them] and authorize VA to obtain” them. These documents are vital to your claim; for example, past service treatment records may correspond to current medical records, showing that you are still suffering from a condition incurred during, and treated while, in service.
You will notice that there are two claims processes you can choose from when filing a claim for disability benefits: the Standard Claim Process and the Fully Developed Claim (FDC) Program. The FDC program is an optional expedited process for having your claim reviewed. When you choose this option, you are stating that you are submitting all of the evidence available to support your claim along with the application. If you selected the FDC option upon filing, but have since discovered additional evidence, you are still able to submit that evidence. However, you will be placed into the standard claims process upon this submission.
Throughout the standard claim process, VA has more responsibility to obtain the information required to support your claim. In this process, you are able to submit additional evidence for up to one year after filing your claim. If you wish to opt into the standard claims process, be sure to check the box under item 26. If you need assistance completing VA Form 21-526EZ, do not hesitate to ask for help from a VSO or accredited claims representative if you need it.
- 21-0966: Intent to File a Claim for Compensation and/or Pension, or Survivors Pension and/or DIC— If you are planning to file for disability benefits through the VA but need more time to gather evidence, you can submit this form to notify VA of your intent to file a claim. After submitting your Intent to File, you have one year to complete your claim application (21-526EZ). The date that VA received your intent to file will also be the effective date of your claim.
- 21-526c: Pre-Discharge Compensation Claim— This form allows active service members to apply for the Benefits Delivery at Discharge program. Active service members can file disability compensation claims “from 180 to 90 days prior to separation or retirement from active duty or full-time National Guard duty.” VA stresses the importance of submitting this form as close to 180 days prior to discharge as possible in order to schedule and complete your Compensation and Pension Exam. Claims processed using this program are typically decided much faster than those filing a standard claim for benefits.
- 21-526b: Veteran’s Supplemental Claim for Compensation— Veterans who have been previously granted disability compensation can use this form to claim the following circumstances:
- Increased evaluation- if your service-connected condition has worsened since you were last rated by the VA, you may file for an increased rating using this form.
- Secondary Disabilities– if you believe that your service-connected disability has caused or aggravated another medical condition, you may submit a form 21-526b to establish secondary service connection.
- Aid and Attendance (A&A)– If your service-connected condition warrants the need of in-home care from another person, you may apply for A&A.
This form also provides options for establishing service connection for new disabilities and reopening a previously denied claim; however, the best way to file a claim for a new disability or to reopen a previously denied claim is always to submit a 21-526EZ with new and material evidence supporting your statements.
- 21-4138 Statement in Support of Claim— You can use this form to provide VA with a statement in support of your claim for service connection, increased rating, TDIU, etc. This is a multi-purpose form in which you may include anything you want VA to know. Information provided by you on this form can include specific details about your claim and buddy statements from family, friends, or fellow service-members who have witnessed the impact that your service-connected disability has on your life.
- 21-8940: Veteran’s Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability—If you are seeking Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU), VA will likely require you to submit this form. This form requests basic treatment information, employment and education information, and an opportunity to submit remarks detailing how your service-connected disability(s) affect your ability to work. Note: VA will send the previous employers you list on your 21-8940 a form 21-4192: Request for Employment Information in Connection with Claim for Disability Benefits upon receiving your application for TDIU.
To reiterate, if you need assistance filing any of these forms, please seek assistance from a VSO or qualified veterans lawyer.
- 21-686c: Declaration of Status of Dependents—This form can be used to change the status of your dependents, such as a spouse, children, and parents, in regards to your VA disability compensation benefits. Reasons for adding or removing dependents from your disability compensation benefits can include: marriage, death, divorce, or acquired ineligibility of children due to age.
It is very important to notify the VA of these changes as soon as possible. If you fail to inform VA that you no longer have a dependent, you will likely experience an overpayment, , for which VA will seek reimbursement. Conversely, if you are adding a dependent to your VA disability benefits, you may be entitled to receive additional monthly compensation.
In order for children to qualify as dependents, they must be unmarried, under 18 years old, or between the ages of 18 and 23 while attending a VA approved school full time. Children seriously disabled before age 18 may also qualify as a dependent. Note: if your child is between 18 and 23 and attending school full-time, you must also file VA Form 21-674: Request for Approval of School Attendance to claim them as a dependent.
- 20-572: Request for Change of Address/Cancellation of Direct Deposit—Although it may sound trivial, forgetting to change your address with the VA can sabotage your disability compensation claim. If you do not update the VA as to your change of address, you may miss important correspondence such as the scheduling of your C&P examination, causing you to miss your examination. Failure to attend a C&P exam can lead to a denied disability claim. VA may also send medical or benefits information to this address. Failure to inform VA of a change of address can lead to your sensitive information being sent to the wrong place.
- 21-0958: Notice of Disagreement (NOD) — A Notice of Disagreement’s purpose is to inform the VA that you disagree with its decision regarding your disability claim. The NOD initiates your appeal and it must be filed within one year of the date included on your rating decision notification letter.When completing your Notice of Disagreement, be sure to list the specific aspects of VA’s decision with which you disagree; try to include as much detail as possible when filling out your NOD. Usually, veterans file a Notice of Disagreement to dispute the VA’s decision if:
- it deems the claimed condition unrelated to service;
- it denies entitlement to an increased rating;
- it grants a lower disability rating than the Veteran believes is warranted;
- it grants the claim, but with the wrong effective date.
- VA Form 9: Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals — The substantive appeal form, or VA Form 9, is an official appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). You receive a VA Form 9 along with your Statement of the Case (SOC); the VA sends an SOC if upon reviewing your NOD.
Your Statement of the Case will explain in more detail the reasoning behind VA’s denial of your claim. It should also list the evidence VA used to make its decision. The VA Form 9 gives you an opportunity to contest the information provided in the SOC, and present additional evidence. In order to successfully appeal to BVA at this stage, you must carefully and thoroughly list the specific issues you would like to contest and provide supporting evidence for each assertion. You can choose to contest some, or all of the issues listed on your SOC (or SSOC).
There is a 60-day window from the date of issuance of the SOC to submit a VA Form 9. If you do not submit your Form 9 within the deadline, your appeal will be closed.
Under Block 10 of Form 9, VA asks whether you would like to appear at a Board hearing, and if so, where you want to appear. Hearings in front of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals are entirely optional. If you do request a hearing, you have the option of attending it via videoconference, in Washington D.C., or at your local VA Regional Office.
Per instructions listed on the Form 9, seeking assistance from a VSO or legal representative is recommended at this stage of the appeals process: “Most people who appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals do get a representative.” Once you have completed your Form 9, follow the instructions listed on your SOC to learn where to file it.