When to Apply for Veteran Disability Benefits
Veterans with a disability related to their service in the armed forces can apply for disability benefits once they have been discharged. A disabled armed service member who is still in active service can also apply once his discharge is pending through the Benefits Delivery at Discharge program. In this case, the veteran applies for benefits in a time frame ranging from 60 to 180 days before his discharge. The Benefits Delivery at Discharge Quick Start program allows veterans to apply with an impending discharge that's less than 60 days away.
Eligibility for Veteran Disability Benefits
To apply for disability benefits, a veteran must present all required evidence regarding his disability, and his disability must be permanent and total. Acceptable and required evidence includes his discharge papers, any service treatment papers and medical evidence of his disability, including hospital and doctor reports. The Veterans Administration can obtain most of these records on behalf of the veteran or, to speed up the claim, the veteran can submit all the evidence as part of a fully-developed claim and simply wait for the VA's ruling.
A veteran may submit a claim and supporting evidence online, by mail or in person at a VA facility. He may also work with a representative who has been accredited by the VA to help him develop and support his disability claim.
Direct Service Benefits
A veteran's disability must be connected to his active service. However, any disability that is the result of willful misconduct during the veteran's active service does not qualify the veteran for benefits. The simplest approval for veteran disability benefits occurs when the disability occurred during the veteran's service. For instance, if a veteran loses a limb as the result of a combat injury, the disability is clearly covered. All the veteran needs to show in the case of a direct service disability is evidence of the incident that caused the disability.
Aggravated and Presumed Service Benefits
Sometimes the connection between a veteran's disability and his active military service isn't as obvious. Aggravated service disabilities occur when a veteran has a pre-existing condition before his military service, and exacerbation of this condition during his service causes a disability. In this case, the veteran must be able to show evidence of the pre-existing condition from the medical exam performed when he entered medical service.
Presumed service benefits are those that develop after the veteran's military service is completed. The VA has established various time frames during which disabilities must develop to be eligible for benefits, depending on the actual disability. Eligible disabilities include cancers developed as a result of exposure to radiation or herbicides during active service and chronic health problems resulting from active duty in the Gulf War.
In addition, prisoners of war who were held prisoner 30 days or more may claim benefits for a range of conditions, including frostbite, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, anxiety and chronic dysentery. Veterans with a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder from a VA psychologist or psychiatrist do not have to prove a direct connection to a specific event triggering the disorder to be eligible for benefits.
Veterans should make sure to file for their disability benefits as soon as they are eligible and gather any necessary evidence to make the processing and decision regarding their claim as straightforward as possible. If a veteran is unable to hire an accredited representative for assistance, various veterans' service organizations may be able to help file the claim.