There are over 18 million veterans in the United States, as of 2022.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has made continuous efforts to support this population, by providing healthcare, financial, educational and other benefits to veterans and their families.
Even with these resources available, statistics show that oftentimes veterans aren’t taking advantage of them. Many veterans are missing out on disability benefits they rightfully deserve.
One of the most commonly forgotten entitlements? VA Disability Compensation.
The question is…
Why are Veterans not filing?
1. Application Issues
Perhaps one of the most pressing reasons why you may forgo filing all together is because of the confusing nature of the application itself. Misunderstandings about the process and confusion about the qualification process keeps veterans from their disability benefits.
Some of the most common complaints and issues regarding the VA application process are:
- using the wrong VA forms and
- missing important deadlines
If you are filing after a denial, it can be difficult to decipher which form to use. In addition, veteran disability claims are highly time sensitive, with many different dates to remember.
2. Giving up on Claims
No doubt about it–the claims process for VA disability is intimidating. It’s understandable that many veterans give up entirely once they see the paperwork and time involved.
There is free help available to work through a lot of the issues involved, like a county VSO.
However, a lot of times these government agencies and services have significant waiting periods and lack of customer service because of staffing and budget limitations.
For many, a negative experience with the claims process, or getting a denial, is a good enough reason to forgo trying for disability benefits.
3. Confusion About Who Can File
There is a lot of confusion around who is actually eligible for VA disability benefits. Many veterans are eligible but they simply don’t realize that they are.
Three Common Myths About Eligibility
You had to be involved in combat operations in order to file.
Disability benefits are not limited to combat vets, nor those with orthopedic conditions. Any veteran that honorably served on Active Duty military service may be eligible to get VA disability benefits and compensation. This includes mobilized or activated individuals during National Guard or Reserve time as well.
Current illnesses or conditions that affect your mental or physical health, that could be linked to the military, can also qualify a veteran to receive benefits.
A veteran does not have to just have conditions that occurred during service to be eligible. Many conditions can arise after military service has ended, whose root cause can be traced back as being service-related.
If you have signs of certain illnesses, like hypertension (high blood pressure), arthritis, diabetes, or peptic ulcers that started within a year after you were discharged from active duty service, the VA may conclude that they are related to your service.
Only an honorable discharge warrants VA disability benefits.
An honorable discharge is ideal, however, a general discharge under honorable conditions is just as valid. A veteran who has a general under honorable discharge should not have issues.
A Veteran with an other than honorable discharge can get service-connected benefits in certain cases, but a successful outcome under this type of discharge can be extremely difficult. If a Veteran received a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge, they are not eligible to receive VA disability benefits.
4. Don’t Think They Can Pursue More Than One Disability Claim
The fact of the matter is…the longer you wait the longer it’ll take, and the effective date is important.
Oftentimes, many of your injuries and illnesses impact each other, so it is a logical step to pursue all of your claims at once. It ultimately helps save time by not having to wait on individual claims in this case.
Filling all of your claims at once is likely the best solution, because while the process may slow down a little (but not necessarily), you still will likely get multiple decisions around the same time.
Even if you find yourself in a situation where you have already filed, but then realize there is something new you’d like to pursue, it is usually the best choice to file.
Remember, you can also file a claim years after service.
There is no deadline. Many severe symptoms and certain conditions seen in veterans don’t actually manifest until it’s been a lengthy amount of time post-service. Don’t think your time is up!
5. Skipping Compensation & Pension (C&P) Exams
Another, often frustrating hurdle, is the Compensation & Pension (C&P) Exam.
The VA will often schedule this exam in connection with the compensation application. This is not an optional exam. If you do not attend, the VA can deny your application solely for that reason.
Improperly rescheduling or failing to attend a C&P is a common reason veterans miss out or stop pursuing their well deserved disability benefits.
6. Concerns About Their Employment
A very common myth in regards to VA disability benefits, is that if you pursue this option, then you will be prohibited from being employed.
A lot of misinformation is floating around about VA ratings and subsequent monetary compensation. This misunderstanding commonly exists because of a VA program known as “Total Disability Individual Unemployability” where disabled veterans receive 100% VA disability compensation because they cannot keep or obtain employment.
Veterans who are awarded VA ratings and subsequent compensation may still maintain employment without limitation, and could be entitled to a variety of benefits.
7. Confusing Social Security Benefits with VA Disability Benefits
Social Security Disability and VA Service Connected Disability are not the same. These two programs can often cause confusion, and lead to missing out on benefits.
Just because you may be receiving social security benefits does not mean you automatically qualify for VA disability, and vice versa. When you aren’t pursuing both options, you are likely losing out on compensation that you deserve.
8. Concerns over Legal Rights
A big concern amongst veterans is filing for mental health treatment and claims.
Mental health ratings from the VA and mental incompetence are entirely two different things. Having a mental health condition does not, by itself, put the veteran at risk for losing their constitutionally protected rights.
If you are suffering from PTSD, anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions, it’s important to seek care and not discount pursuing filing for disability to help.
Understanding the Appeals Process
But what if you filed a claim and it was denied? This is another reason that many veterans decide to not follow through with filing a claim, and understandably so. But it’s important to understand that it is a necessary step to ensure you get the benefits you deserve.
You can choose to disagree with a VA decision and file for an appeal, however there are several steps and different types of appeals. Each type has its own rules, procedures and forms.
Because appeals can take years to resolve, it’s easy to lose track of the status of your case and the necessary steps you need to take. You could easily miss out on benefits without a strategy in place. This is an important time to consider hiring a law firm to represent you.
How can Hill & Ponton Help You?
Hill & Ponton has decades of experience helping military veterans and their families with Veteran disability law cases. We know Veterans and understand the medical evidence needed to fight for VA appeals.
If you believe that you are entitled to VA Disability Benefits and were denied after you filed a claim, we may be able to help. For more information about filing a VA Benefits Claim, check out our FREE eBook The Road to VA Compensation Benefits.
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