Here at Hill and Ponton, we know that the process of filing VA disability claim can be very frustrating and confusing. Any veteran who has not yet started the VA claims process has probably heard about the delays and lengthy appeals process. For any veteran who needs help making their way through this process, there are five common mistakes to avoid:
1. Not Filing Your Claim Right Away
One of the most common mistakes I have seen is not putting in a claim right away. There is no statute of limitations for eligible veterans to file a claim for VA disability compensation benefits. If a veteran has been wondering if they are eligible or waiting to see if their symptoms have improved, not filling a claim right away could potentially lose them a lot of money.
If a veteran receives an award, either through their first decision or on appeal, the benefits will be paid to them retroactively from the date the veteran’s original claim.
2. Giving Up on Your Claim
As mentioned above the appeals process is slow and complicated. Adding to the fact that some veterans have financial hardships that may be going through, it seems like it would just be easier to give up. Most of the time, a finding of service connection is also required to be able to secure other VA benefits such as health care.
3. Failing to Learn How the VA Decides to Give You Benefit
Most of the time, veterans think that all they have to do is fill out a form, send it to the VA, and wait for a check to arrive in the mail. The process that the VA uses to decide claims is much more complicated than that. The VA will only award benefits when a veteran can prove that they are eligible to receive VA benefits, have a current disability, have proof that something happened to them while in service, have medical evidence linking their disabilities to something that happened in service, and medical evidence indicating the severity of their condition. It is very well known that proving these points is extremely difficult the first time around. This is one of the reasons that the VA will deny most first-time claims.
4. Not Filing for Secondary Conditions
There are many veterans who do not realize that they may be entitled to benefits for disabilities that are secondary to their already service-connected disability. This happens when a service-connected injury or illness causes a new disabling condition or aggravates a non-service-connected disability.
A great example to help understand this is when a veteran has a service-connected illness of diabetes that can later lead to other illnesses. Even if the secondary illness does not develop until years later, benefits may still be available if there is medical evidence or a medical opinion to help establish the service-connection.
5. Failing to Obtain a Medical Opinion
As, discussed above, one of the biggest reasons why the VA will deny a claim is the lack of medical evidence linking a veteran’s disability to like their time in service. Just lay statements claiming that the issue is related to service, on their own, will not suffice. If your claim contains a written opinion from a medical expert or professional liking the disability to service, can make huge difference in the outcome of the claim.
In conclusion, there are many mistakes that can be made when filing a claim for VA benefits for the first time. There is an abundance of information and knowledge behind these claims and knowing what to do and what not to do and give any veteran a nice head start. It all starts when a veteran decides to file a claim. Remember, a veteran cannot receive benefits if they do not file a claim first.