VA disability claims require a good deal of preparation and then a healthy amount of patience. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that the average number of days to complete disability-related claims was 104.1, as of July 2023. A waiting period of less than four months seems tolerable, but bear in mind your VA disability claim may not correspond to the average. Some claims can take over a year for an application to be approved, while others can take the VA over a decade to accurately adjudicate.
Factors affecting your VA disability claim status
Claims processing time will depend on:
The type of claim you’ve filed
If you file your claim under the fully developed claim program, you may receive a quicker decision. A “fully developed claim” means that when you file the claim you are also filing all supporting evidence and documentation, so the VA does not spend time collecting evidence for you. If you are filing an appeal to a denial of benefits, planning to submit additional evidence later, or are reopening your claim, this will add to the claims processing duration.
The number of disabilities or injuries claimed
If you have numerous and complex injuries, it will take the VA longer to make a decision. One way to cut down on some of this time is to obtain your own medical opinions about the connection between your conditions and service and/or the severity of your conditions. This is not required, and the VA may obtain this evidence anyway, but it is always helpful to obtain your own evidence, instead of waiting for the VA to request it.
Evidence needed to support your claim
While you may have considered your claim well-supported with evidence, the VA may come back asking for more documentation. Make sure to answer any VA phone calls or letters quickly so the VA can decide your claim efficiently and accurately.
A look inside the VA disability claim process
Let’s take a look at the processing procedures for a VA disability claim. The process begins when a claim is received by the VA. If you file online, you will receive a confirmation message on screen after you submit the form. If you file by mail, you should receive a confirmation letter by mail within about two weeks. If you file by mail, you should file via certified mail, keep the receipt, and save copies of your documents, in case there is an issue later.
Your claim status at this point is “pending review”. The initial review by the VA is to ensure the forms are completed appropriately and to see if any more evidence is required. If the claim and supporting evidence are in good order, the case moves to the next stage.
The next step in the claims process is evidence gathering, review, and decision. During this step, expect the VA to ask for evidence from you as well as any relevant health care providers or other government agencies (such as the Department of Defense or Social Security). Once the evidence is compiled, a decision is made. Some claims can cycle for a while in this stage as more evidence is required and collected.
Your VA disability claim status is switched to “preparing for notification” as the VA prepares a claim decision packet to be mailed to you.
The claim status switches to claim complete once the packet is mailed. You will not be informed about the VA’s decision for about 7 to 10 business days as you wait for your packet to arrive.
How to track your VA disability claim
You can track your claim or appeal status online. You will be able to see where your claim is in the review process and view an estimated review completion date. You’ll also be able to review the evidence you’ve filed online.
You can also call the VA hotline number for a status update, just be prepared for a hold period that can take some time. The VA hotline number is (800) 827-1000.
Can I speed up the claims process?
You are largely at the mercy of the pace of the VA claims reviewers. However, there are a few things you can do to ensure things move along smoothly. Check your claim status regularly online or through the hotline number. This keeps you informed.
Respond quickly to any additional requests for evidence. Additionally, if you have not heard from the VA in an unreasonable amount of time, you can send them letters asking for a status update. Check in with your representative if there are any points of confusion or if things seem unduly stalled.
Get the VA benefits you deserve
Getting to an approved disability claim takes patience and attention to detail. Many Veterans benefit from external support and expertise. At Vets National Advocates, we use our knowledge to help active service members, Veterans, and family members obtain the benefits they deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation using our online form or call 1-877-777-4021.