What Can I Do to Make the VA Disability Process Go Faster?
The process of applying to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for benefits is often very slow because the VA has a huge backlog of pending applications. While you cannot do much to make the VA process go faster, there are things you can do to avoid delays.
How can I avoid delaying the process?
Unfortunately, the VA currently has a sizable backlog for processing disability claims and appeals. While this means you will surely wait at least a few months to receive a decision, to avoid an even longer delay, do the following:
- Respond quickly and thoroughly to any requests for documentation.
- Do not submit incomplete information.
- Do not submit irrelevant information. All information you submit requires review and possibly an examination which could slow down the process.
How long does it take for a VA application to go through the process?
There is no standard amount of time for a VA application to go through the process. Several factors determine how long your claim will take to process. Some of these factors include:
- The type of claim you file
- How complex your medical conditions are
- How many conditions you claim
- The amount of evidence needed for the VA to decide your case
- How quickly you provide the evidence the VA requests/how easy it is for the VA to access that evidence
- The backlog at your local regional office
While the amount of time it takes an application to go through the process depends on the factors above, veterans can use the Fully Developed Claim (FDC) process to fast-track disability compensation claims.
The average claim that uses the FDC process takes approximately 113 days (just about four months) to complete, reports the VA. This compares to an average of 136 days (slightly over four months) to complete a claim that does not use the FDC process.
(To file an FDC, all you need to do is login to your eBenefits account, click Apply for Benefits and then click Apply for Disability Compensation. The site will help you navigate the application process; all you need to do is scan and upload all required documents. The VA includes a checklist of those required documents in its FDC blog post here.)
You can check your claim status online through ebenefits.va.gov.
Are there ways to speed up the VA claims and appeals process?
Veterans can file a Priority Processing Request using VA Form 20-10207 to ask VA to address their claim in a more expedient manner. In order to be eligible, veterans must submit documentation, if not already on file, indicating that they meet one of the following criteria:
- Experiencing extreme financial hardship
- Terminally ill
- Diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Very seriously ill/injured or seriously ill/injured during military operations (defined as a disability resulting from a military operation that will likely result in discharge from military service)
- Age 85 or older
- A former Prisoner of War
- A Medal of Honor or Purple Hear Award Recipient
Documenting and Filing Earlier Is Better
For many veterans, disabilities develop over time, and may not have presented serious difficulties at first. Especially in cases like PTSD, TBI or common disorders like tinnitus, symptoms may continue to get worse long after you have returned home. It’s best to file your claim as soon as you are diagnosed with a condition you believe to be connected to your military service.
If you want to file for disability while you are still on active duty, it’s advised that you go through the Benefits Delivery At Discharge or BDD program, or file a ‘Quick Start’ claim if you are expected to be out of the service within 60 days. Keep in mind that if you are unsure about filing, there isn’t a time limit, but you may regret that you did not get the claims process going sooner—especially if you think your case may be complicated.
Provide Everything Possible
When you first file your claim, it’s important to fill out all necessary forms and to try to do so without error, along with providing all the documentation you can. When the VA is tasked to seek out records that may be hard to find, that’s when you may begin seeing a slowdown. Provide everything in your power and do so in an organized fashion that will streamline the process.
It is also important to understand exactly what type of disability you want to claim, and know that if there is more than one, you will need to provide all the relevant information for each claim. Be sure to make attending each medical evaluation a top priority. Do everything in your power not to miss medical appointments, and to keep copies and records of all of them.
What should I expect from the VA benefits application process?
Once the VA has received your claim, it will notify you that it has received your claim (Step 1. Claim Received) and started the review process (Step 2. Under Review). The VA will assign a Veterans Service Representative (VSR) to review your claim (Step 3. Gathering of Evidence) and evaluate the evidence you submitted (Step 4. Review of Evidence).
If your VSR determines that s/he needs additional evidence, s/he will contact you to let you know what you need to submit. Once your VSR has received all the necessary documents, s/he will evaluate your claim and make a decision. The VSR will then make a recommendation to approve or deny (Step 5. Preparation for Decision).
The VA reviews the VSR’s recommended decision and makes a final award approval (Step 6. Pending Decision Approval), prepares your claim decision packet (Step 7. Preparation for Notification), and sends it to you by regular U.S. mail (Step 8. Complete).
What if I disagree with the decision?
You have the right to file an appeal of the decision. Your first appeal is with the Agency of Original Jurisdiction (AOJ), typically your local VA regional office. If the AOJ denies your appeal, we can move on to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). The BVA examines the case and makes a final decision.
If the BVA upholds the denial, you can appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) in Washington, DC. If you want to appeal a Board denial, you have 120 days from the date of the decision to file with the Court.
Protect your claim. Get help from Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD
Unfortunately, there is really nothing you can do to expedite the process. The best you can do is to avoid things that will slow down the processing of your claim. The most important way to avoid slowing down the processing of your disability claim by the VA is to send them all the documentation they request immediately.
We have extensive experience handling veterans’ claims. We can guide you on the documentation you should include with your application for VA disability benefits and prevent you from doing anything that might prolong the process. And remember, we do not charge to talk with you and evaluate your claim. Call us today at 800-544-9144 to set up your free, no-obligation consultation.