The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a tax-free monthly payment to veterans who suffer from a disease or injury connected to their military service or those whose service made an existing condition worse.
In order to receive this benefit, veterans must prove to the VA that their condition is service-related and undergo a compensation and pension (C&P) exam for the VA to determine a disability rating, based off the severity of their illness. The higher the disability rating assigned, the more compensation the veteran will receive.
During the examination, a medical provider will review health records, ask additional questions, perform a physical exam, and order blood work or other tests, as needed.
Veterans can miss out on thousands of dollars in benefits if they don’t provide ample documentation or properly communicate the extent that their ailment affects their daily life. To help former service members maximize their benefits, we spoke with Chas Sampson, a former VA decision officer and Iraq War veteran who founded Seven Principles, a firm that assists veterans in the VA claims process. He recommends taking seven steps to boost the chances of a successful disability claim.
1. Properly submit your initial disability paperwork
If you are eligible for VA disability compensation, gather any and all evidence you have to support your claim. Be sure paperwork is completely filled out with supporting documents and find out if you need to file any additional forms.
If the VA does not receive proper evidence and documentation, you may not even get to the exam stage of the process. Making an appeal in that case is difficult because the VA has already once decided the applicant does not have enough evidence, Sampson says.
If you are seeking a new or higher disability rating, the same rules apply. Under federal government guidelines, the disability must have a “nexus,” or direct connection, to an event in military service. It can be especially helpful to provide a nexus letter from a qualified health care provider that the examiner can review with your other medical documentation.
2. Communicate the severity of your ailments
When explaining your illness, make sure to connect how it is a result of your military service. If your condition waxes and wanes, and you aren’t feeling much pain on your examination day, articulate how you feel on the worst day to provide a true depiction of your disability.
Any new non-VA medical records that you may have before your appointment need to be submitted online through an accredited representative or mailed to a VA regional office. The C&P exam provider can’t submit these documents for you.