How Do I File a Claim for Veterans’ Benefits?
There are many different types of veterans benefits including benefits for education and training, home loans, vocational rehabilitation and pension. This article only focuses on applications for veterans’ disability compensation benefits which can be awarded when a veteran has a disease or injury that is caused by, related to or aggravated by military service.
How To File For Veterans Disability Compensation Benefits
Veterans can apply for disability compensation benefits without hiring an attorney. One way to do so is to apply online through your eBenefits account. You can also go to the nearest VA Regional Office and complete an application or submit your claim to a Regional Office by mail after you complete the particular form for the type of benefit for which you are applying. For disability compensation, that would be either VA Form 21-526 Application for Compensation and/or Pension or VA Form 21-526EZ Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation.
The “EZ” version is a simplified version that will get the process started and establish an “effective date,” although there may be additional information sought later by VA that would have been addressed on the longer version. So, the more complicated form could potentially result in a faster claims decision, although that is never certain when dealing with VA. Some time after your claim has been filed, you will receive a Rating Decision from a VA Regional Office indicating what, if any, disability the VA has determined is related to your military service. If you disagree with that rating decision, you can appeal it by filing a notice of disagreement.
Do I Need an Attorney to File For Veterans Disability Compensation?
You do not have to have an attorney to file an application for veterans disability compensation. We usually recommend for veterans to file the initial application themselves since the VA benefits system is supposed to work for the veteran instead of against the veteran. Part of that is based on the “duty to assist,” which is VA’s obligation under the law to help veterans identify and obtain evidence supportive of the claimed benefits.
If you are able to secure your benefits without the service of an attorney, that’s wonderful. Unfortunately, many veterans are denied some or all of the benefits they should receive. In those cases, an attorney can help appeal the denial (or partial grant of benefits, as the case may be). These appeals are the primary focus of our firm. We want to help those veterans who are unable to receive their benefits without our help.
For representing you on the appeal, there would generally be a contingency fee contract with a potential attorney’s fee calculated as a percentage of any back due benefits if we agreed to represent you on the appeal. Still, you would only pay us if we were successful in recovering benefits for you. We take this approach because it allows veterans to secure the benefits they can without an attorney involved so our work can be focused on those benefits they VA would not have granted otherwise.
Other Questions About Veterans Benefits
For answers to additional questions about veterans’ benefits claims, please feel free to visit the Veterans’ Benefits section of our Questions and Answers page or simply complete the “Need Help” form at the right to get a consultation about your veterans’ benefits claims.