How to File a Claim for VA Benefits
Are you a disabled veteran or a surviving family member of a deceased military service member? Then you may be entitled to compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The VA provides tax-free payments to veterans who have service-related injuries or illnesses and to the spouse, child, or parents of service members who died as a result of military service.1
But the process for claiming these benefits can be complex. Vets National Advocates wants to make it manageable. So, we’ve created this guide.
Types of VA Benefits
The first step in getting VA benefits is to choose the correct type of compensation.
There are four main types of VA compensation: Disability Compensation, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, Special Monthly Compensation, and Special Claims.2
VA Disability Benefits
You should apply for disability benefits if you developed a physical or psychological problem from your service in the U.S. Armed Forces.
You can file a claim if you were injured or became ill during active duty or training or if you had a
pre-existing medical condition that was worsened by your military service, according to the Veterans Benefits Administration, a division of the VA.3
However, the administration adds that in order to get benefits, you need a disability rating of 10 percent or higher and a discharge that isn’t dishonorable.
If your illness began after you were discharged, you can still get benefits. VA guidelines show that you can be compensated for a disease caused by exposure to certain hazardous materials, service in a specific geographic region, or captivity as a POW.4
Before filing a disability benefits claim, you must first collect three types of information required by the VA: discharge or separation papers, service treatment records, and medical evidence.5
The fastest way to file is by using eBenefits, an online government system. Alternately, you can mail your claim to a local VA office.
If you want to apply by mail before being discharged from the military, use VA Form 21-526c.
If you’ve already been discharged, use VA Form 21-526EZ.
You’re probably wondering how much you can be paid as compensation for your disability.
“VA rates disability from 0% to 100% in 10% increments.6 The VA uses that rating system to measure the severity of a disability and the corresponding amount paid in monthly benefits.
What can you do if you’re so severely disabled after leaving the military that you can’t work?
Apply for the Individual Unemployability program. The VA designates it as a type of special claim.
Individual Unemployability is a part of VA’s disability compensation program that allows VA to pay certain Veterans disability compensation at the 100% rate.7
Additional Disability Benefits
If you were severely injured in the military, you might also be eligible for Special Monthly Compensation.
This additional tax-free benefit is offered to help veterans who need someone to provide assistance to them regularly.2
VA Benefits for Family Members
In some cases, family members of deceased soldiers can apply for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), a VA benefit.
The VA says that the surviving spouse, child, or parents of a military service member who died in the line of duty can apply for DIC, a tax-free monthly payment.8 9
This benefit is also available to family members of a veteran who died from a service-related injury or illness, according to the VA. 8.9
Surviving parents can use VA Form 21-535 to apply.
A surviving spouse or child can use VA Form 21-534a if the service member died in the line of duty. Otherwise, VA Form 21-534 should be used.
Filing an Appeal for Denied Disability Benefits
Are you a veteran whose disability benefits have been denied?
Contact Vets National Advocates for a FREE evaluation.
Call 877-777-4021 to talk to one of our advocates. Or, fill out our Denied Claims Rapid Response Form.
1. “Compensation.” Veterans Benefits Administration. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, n.d. Web. http://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/index.asp.
2. “Compensation: Types of Compensation.” Veterans Benefits Administration. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, n.d. Web. http://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/types-compensation.asp.
3. “Compensation: Disability Compensation.” Veterans Benefits Administration. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, n.d. Web. http://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/types-disability.asp.
4. “Compensation: Claims Based on Post-Service – Diseases After Service.” Veterans Benefits Administration. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, n.d. Web. http://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/claims-postservice-index.asp.
5. “Compensation: Evidence Requirements.” Veterans Benefits Administration. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, n.d. Web. http://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/evidence.asp.
6. “Compensation: Benefit Rates.” Veterans Benefits Administration. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, n.d. Web. http://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/rates-index.asp.
7. “Special Claims: Individual Unemployability.” Veterans Benefits Administration. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, n.d. Web. http://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/claims-special-individual_unemployability.asp.
8. “Compensation: Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.” Veterans Benefits Administration. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, n.d. Web. http://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/types-dependency_and_indemnity.asp.
9. “Compensation: Parents’ Dependency and Indemnity.” Veterans Benefits Administration. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, n.d. Web. http://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/types-dependency_and_indemnity_parents.asp.