To apply for either compensation or a pension, the veteran must complete the Veterans Application for Compensation and/or Pension, VA form 21-526. The application consists of four parts: the general information section, the compensation section, the dependency section and the pension section. Documents like DD214 separation papers, medical records, dependency records and financial records should be attached to the application as well.
Once the application is received the veteran will receive a letter of notification of receipt of the claim. After that the VA will offer no more correspondence until a decision is reached, unless it requires more information from the veteran. Sometimes it may require the veteran to have an evaluation at a VA medical facility by a VA doctor to examine his disabilities to determine how severe they are.
The VA may take six months or longer to make a decision regarding the veteran's claim. This isn't unusual, especially if the VA is swamped with claims or the veteran requires numerous evaluations or didn't provide enough information in his application and more correspondence is needed. Once a decision is reached, though, if the veteran is awarded disability, he will receive an award letter. The award letter will list the disabilities for which the veteran is being awarded disability as well as the effective date of the award.
The VA pays veterans monthly. In the veteran's award letter, the amount that she will receive in monthly benefits is listed. However, on her first month's benefits check, she will receive a one lump-sum payment known as a retroactive payment. The effective date of a veteran's claim, once awarded, dates back to the date she first applied for benefits. Therefore, the veteran may receive a one lump sum payment of back pay for several months. Every month after that she will receive the monthly benefit amount listed on her award letter.