You have a disability that was caused by your service to our country. You have gone to your local VA hospital and received treatment for this disability. Your doctors know and have spoken with you about your disability that was caused by an incident in service. Yet despite all this, you still do not have benefits related to that disability. Why is this?
The First Reason
Your local VA hospital is on an entirely different system than the benefits that you may be eligible for through your local Regional Office. The Veteran’s Health Administration (VHA) takes care of your healthcare, while the Veteran’s Benefits Administration (VBA) is in charge of all benefits you can receive for your disabilities. It is not enough that you have spoken with your VA doctors about your disability or that you are receiving healthcare for that disability.
The Second Reason
The VA requires you officially file a claim with your local Regional Office before you can start receiving benefits for a disability. There are a few different ways you can initiate a claim. One of the most important things, however, is getting this claim in as quickly as possible. With some exceptions, you can normally only receive benefits starting from the day you initially file your claim. You also don’t want to rush the initial claim and put down the wrong information. For this reason, it is a good idea to file the VA Form 21-0966 Intent to File A Claim. This lets the VA know you are going to file a claim, while also allowing you to ‘bookmark’ your benefits to start from the day you send this form. Essentially, it buys you time while making sure you are still going to be paid for the time it takes to file an official claim.
Starting from the date the VA receives your Intent to File letter, you have one year to file a VA Form 526EZ Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits and officially start your claim. As long as you file within that one year period, any benefits you are awarded will be paid starting on your ‘effective date’, which will be the day you sent your Intent to File form.