If you've served your country and received an honorable discharge, you may be eligible for disability compensation for injuries or illnesses resulting from your military service. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) processes applications and rates all disability claims for compensation. How long it takes to rate the claim depends on various factors, including the current caseload backup at the VA. It also depends on the length of time necessary to receive medical records or schedule an examination.
The process for VA disability compensation begins with the applicant sending in the compensation application. The VA then sends a letter explaining information needed for claim support, including medical release forms so the agency can receive medical records from the hospital or your physician. Complete and return forms to the VA as soon as possible for claim expedition. Sending your own copy of your medical records can move the process along faster, as the VA does not have to wait for the hospital's or doctor's responses.
A veterans service representative decides the merits of your claim, and may require you to appear for a free medical examination. During the examination, the examiner evaluates the conditions you included on your benefit claim. The examination may include a physical and psychiatric evaluation. Once the examination is completed, the report is sent to the regional VA office for processing. If the examiner requests additional testing or information, that will delay the process until the information is received or another examination conducted.
After all records and pertinent medical examinations are received, the ratings representative assigned to your case reviews the material. He makes the decision whether to approve or deny your application according to law as well as your particular circumstances. He must provide the reasoning behind his decision in his report; if it is denied, you have the right to appeal. If granted, you receive a letter from the VA stating your monthly disability payment and its effective date. You should receive payments shortly after receiving the letter. You may also appeal a decision if you are approved but believe your percentage of disability is incorrect, thus lessening the amount of money received.
According to a December 2010 article in the military and foreign affairs journal Veterans Today, over 250,000 veterans waited more than four months to learn if their VA disability applications were approved. The backlog affected approximately one-third of applications. If all your paperwork is correct and medical records submitted promptly, your claim has a 66 percent chance of being decided within a four-month period. If there are paperwork or record inconsistencies, the wait will be longer.
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