Filing a VA claim can seem like an overwhelming task. Figuring out what is needed can send a veteran down a rabbit hole of confusing information about forms and information.
But the truth is that filing a VA claim really is simple. Here’s what you need to know.
What is needed for a VA disability claim?
There are three things a veteran must prove for their claim to be service connected.
Medical diagnosis of said disability.
Evidence of an in-service illness; or an event or injury which created or aggravated a condition.
Is a diagnosis needed before filing?
No, often the VA will request a Compensation and Pension Examination (C&P) where the examiner may provide the diagnosis. However, it is recommended that you do get a diagnosis before filing your claim. There are times when a C&P examiner will not provide the diagnosis and the claim will in turn be denied. This would then require filing an appeal, either a Higher Level Review or a Supplemental Claim, in order to try again. It can be easier to simply provide the diagnosis at the time of filing.
It is always recommended that you see a doctor for any conditions that you are dealing with, especially those you believe may be service connected.
How do I provide evidence of an in-service illness or injury?
Service treatment records are the best way to prove an illness or injury occurred while on active duty. A veteran can request service treatment records from the VA using VA form 20-10206. Be prepared to be patient while waiting for them, as they can take months to receive, sometimes more.
How do I prove an in-service event?
An in-service event can be proven through things like a DD214, newspaper articles, photographs, and buddy letters. Buddy letters are exactly what they sound like, letters from military colleagues testifying to the truth of what you are claiming.
For example, if you say you were in a crash that is not recorded in your records, your friend can complete this VA form as a witness stating that it did indeed happen.
If you do not have copies of your DD214 you can request them through the VA. A DD214 shows deployments, medals and more that can help substantiate a disability claim, so it is important to know what is on yours.
What is a nexus?
In essence, a nexus is a link. It is proof that the current condition is related to whatever happened while on active duty. Often this nexus is seen in the evidence discussed above, such as service treatment records or a DD214.
Sometimes current medical records will point to the active-duty injury as the cause of the current issue. This is why it is important to discuss your issues and history with your doctor, and ensure they are documenting those conversations well. It is recommended that you review your records after each visit with your doctor.
What is a nexus letter?
A nexus letter is a written statement from a medical professional stating that the current issue is believed to be related to active duty or another already service-connected condition. Sometimes veterans can get these letters from their private physician. They are not required to file a claim but can be helpful.
There are companies that will write a nexus letter for veterans for a fee. We do not recommend paying for a nexus letter, as they are quite expensive and there is no guarantee that they will help your claim.
What should I do first when preparing to file my claim?
The first step in preparing to file your VA claim is to submit an intent to file. This is basically a way to inform the VA that you are planning to file a disability claim.
Why is this necessary? Well, it isn’t. But it is highly recommended. An intent to file sets a potential effective date for your disability benefits.
Often when the VA grants service connection for a disability they will back date the payments to the date of the intent to file. Submitting an intent to file could mean months of back pay. The intent to file is valid for one year, which provides plenty of time to gather evidence before submitting your claim.
Can I file for VA disability without medical records?
No evidence is required to submit a VA disability claim, but as much as you can gather is recommended. The truth is that medical evidence will bolster the validity of your claim and help you receive the rating you deserve.
If you can submit the medical records with your claim it can also cut down processing time, as the VA will not need to put in a request for those records.
What kind of medical evidence is needed for a VA disability claim?
Below are just some of the types of medical evidence which could be helpful for your claim:
· Treatment notes from doctors and mental health providers
· Prescription history
· X-rays and other types of imaging
· Chiropractic or massage therapy records
· Medical test results
· Appointment history
· Diagnosis reviews
The bottom-line regarding VA claim prep
Whether you are filing your VA disability claim yourself or using a VSO or private company, it will be helpful to first submit an intent to file, and then gather the following:
· Service treatment records
· Private treatment records
It will also help to have a clear understanding of your condition, including when and how it began. Understanding how to communicate your symptoms will also be helpful. Take the first step in filing your VA disability claim today.
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This information is made available for educational purposes only. This information is not a substitute for legal or medical advice. United Veteran Benefits Agency makes no guarantee of the outcome on VA rating decisions.