The Department of Veterans Affairs, commonly referred to as the VA, is the administrative body that handles the needs of veterans of the United States military. People who serve in any branch of the military are sometimes eligible to receive benefits from the VA. Some types of benefits offered by the VA are disability benefits, pension, survivor benefits, insurance, educational benefits and home loans. The process to receive VA benefits can be a bit lengthy, however.
Filing for VA Benefits
Fill out the appropriate VA form to file for the type of benefits you wish to receive. For example, if you are applying for a VA disability compensation or pension, you would complete VA form 21-526, the Veterans Application for Compensation and/or Pension and mail it to your local VA office. Obtain VA forms online from the VA's website (www.va.gov) or get them from your local VA office. If you need assistance completing your form, a representative at your local VA office can assist you and even file the form for you electronically online. Don't forget to attach any supporting documents requested.
When the VA receives your claim, they will send you a letter notifying you they have received your claim. You will receive no further correspondence from the VA until they make a decision regarding your claim unless they need further information or documentation from you. If you are applying for disability benefits, you may be scheduled for an appointment at a VA facility to be evaluated by a VA doctor. It is not uncommon for your claim to be pending for six months or longer.
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Checking the Status of a Claim
If you want to know what stage your claim is in, you can visit your local VA office and speak with a representative who can pull up your claims file on their computer system. You will need to show the representative your VA military ID before they will divulge information about your claim. Alternatively, you can call the VA's toll free number at 1-800-827-1000. If you call, you will need your Social Security number as well as your zip code to verify your identity.
Retroactive VA Benefits
When the VA makes a decision regarding your claim, they will send you either a reward letter or a rejection letter. If you receive a rejection letter, instructions on how you can appeal their decision will be included with the letter. If you receive a reward letter, the disability percentage at which the VA rated you will be included; your disability percentage rating determines how much you will receive in monthly VA benefits. Your first check, however, will be retroactive. You will receive one lump sum that pays you for every month that has passed since the date you filed your claim. Every month after that, you will receive your disability percentage rating's monthly rate.