Applying for disability compensation

Applying for disability compensation from the VA can be a stressful and confusing experience. I don’t know any veterans that have gone through the application process that thought it was a pleasant experience. There are three ways you can apply for disability compensation.

When I applied for disability compensation, I used eBenefits. The electronic application was relatively easy to fill out. One benefit of applying through eBenefits is that you can easily track your application. The status of it doesn’t change that often, but at least you can tell what stage it is at.

When you apply for disability compensation, it is likely that you will have to go to the VA for a medical exam. My disability claim was for tinnitus, so they gave me an appointment with a VA audiologist. For the last few years, the VA has maintained a large backlog of unprocessed disability claims. This makes the claim process move slower. Recently the backlog has been reduced. When I applied, I waited about five months before I heard anything. After three months of waiting, the VA contacted me to schedule an appointment. The audiologist was backed up on appointments so I think I waited another three months before I could come in for my exam. If you aren’t a patient at the VA, you will still probably have to have your compensation and pension exam at the VA. If you do see a private doctor, make sure you get documentation from your doctor relating to your service-connected disability. You will want to submit that information at the time of your initial application.

My visit to the audiologist was relatively easy. I explained the problem I was having and told the audiologist how long it had been going on. She asked what my MOS was in the service. There was a one-page sheet of information I had to fill out that was basically trying to determine if I had any jobs after the service that subjected me to lots of noise exposure.

After your appointment, the doctor will fill out their opinion on if the disability is service-connected. This is where it is very important to have a MyHealtheVet account. Check out my post on getting a MyHealtheVet account. If you have a MyHealtheVet account, you will be able to read what the doctor wrote. This will give you a decent idea on how the rest of the process is going to go. The doctor’s note is a very important factor in your claim, but it isn’t the doctor who decides whether or not your claim is approved. You will still have to play the waiting game after your appointment is over. If you do get your disability claim approved, you will receive back pay to the day you first submitted your application. I think my application from start to finish took 11 months. I have heard other people say it took them 2 years. If you are denied and appeal the VA’s decision, that takes a lot longer.

There is something called the Fully Developed Claim process. This is the quickest way to apply for disability, but you need all of your supporting evidence when you initially apply. If the VA determines more documentation exists, they will just take your claim out of the Fully Developed Claims process and put it in the normal queue. This way there isn’t a risk for the veteran. This is all just what I have learned from the VA’s website. I didn’t apply using this but probably would have if I knew it existed.

I tried having a VA employee assist in my disability application but they really just told me what forms I would need. I probably would have gotten better luck using the DAV. Just remember this is an option if you find any stage of the process confusing. Also, remember that this is going to be a long process and you will go long periods of time where you will not hear anything. My recommendation is to have an eBenefits and MyHealtheVet account before you apply for disability. I would also request your military service records before you apply for disability. That way you will have access to the same information the VA employee that will be making the final decision has.

Check out this website to see the current disability compensation rates. It says 2014, but these are current. They just haven’t changed since 2014.

http://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/resources_comp01.asp

 

 

eBenefits: an online portal for many veterans benefits

The eBenefits website is an online portal that allows you to apply for benefits like disability compensation, your GI Bill, and VA home loan eligibility. It also allows you to track your application throughout the approval process. Once your application is approved, you can track the payments you will receive and when they will be paid. I am sure for many years you will still be able to apply for these benefits using a paper application but applying electronically using eBenefits will speed up the processing time of your application. For the last few years, media outlets have reported on the large backlog of disability compensation applications the VA is working through. Knowing of this backlog, applying electronically is really in your favor. I have talked to veterans who told me how they applied for disability using a paper application, and that their application was lost somewhere in the system. The likelihood of this happening by applying electronically is greatly reduced since you are able to track your claim through the system.

Applying for disability is a such an important topic that I will dedicate a few posts specifically to that process. This post is just to let you know of the advantages of having an eBenefits account before you apply for disability.

Here is a list of the benefits you can apply for using eBenefits that I think are the most relevant to the typical veteran.

  • Apply for disability compensation
  • Apply for your pension if earned during your service
  • See if you are eligible for a VA home loan
  • Apply for the GI Bill
  • Apply for health care through the VA
  • Apply for Veterans Group Life Insurance (VGLI)
  • Apply for burial benefits for a deceased veteran

Once you apply for any of these benefits using the website, you can track your application. Some of them are immediate. I filled out the online form to see if I was eligible for a VA home loan and I received the acceptance in seconds.

Signing up for a basic eBenefits account is relatively easy to do online. Just go to the eBenefits homepage and click on the “Register” button. There are three register options you can pick from. If you aren’t a current federal employee, the third option will probably be what you want to select. There are 7 short pages of information you will need to go through before your account is set up. Successfully registering online will give you basic access to your account. There is a second level of eBenefits called a premium account. This is what you will want to take advantage of the benefits I list above. Getting the premium account is a little more labor intensive. Check out this link for a full description about obtaining a premium account.

The VA just released a video explaining how you can get signed up for eBenefits. Find it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szbYUKhbB7A