Filing for Veteran’s Administration (VA) disability compensation
*Disclosure: these opinions and personal experiences are my own and I do not work for the Veterans Administration.
Where should I start?
After retiring from the Air Force I still ran into a challenge; filing for VA disability compensation. So I thought I would share my experience in hopes that this will help others. I do want to warn you that dealing with the Veterans Administration (VA) can test your patience. I can’t tell you how many times I called and I got a different answer from every representative that answered my call. The key here is to have PATIENCE! It is a lengthy process.
If you are still on active duty and you are thinking about getting out (retirement or separation) consider filing your VA claim BEFORE you separate. I used the BDD process before I retired. But to be honest, it did not help it along any faster, since my out-processing physical was so late in the process. ADVICE: Schedule your final out-processing physical in advance. There is a lot of paperwork and prep for this process. Note: If you are Active Guard Reserve (AGR) you MUST do this at an active duty Military Treatment Facility (MTF).
One of the most important things to remember to do is to get copy of your medical records BEFORE you separate. If you have a MTF or a clinic then you can request them through there. Also if you’ve even been seen by civilian providers throughout your military career, make sure to get those records too. You will need everything!!
When should you file?
The VA website gives this information on filing before you separate:
Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD)~ BDD allows a service member to submit a claim for disability compensation 60 to 180 days prior to separation, retirement, or release from active duty or demobilization. BDD can help you receive VA disability benefits sooner, with a goal of within 60 days after release or discharge.
Eligibility~ BDD requires a minimum of 60 days to allow sufficient time to complete the medical examination process (which may involve multiple specialty clinics) prior to separation from service. If you are closer than 60 days to separation from service, you can submit a Quick Start claim. BDD is available nationwide and open to all service members on full time active duty, including members of the National Guard and Reserve. Members of the Coast Guard may also participate.
Final Active Duty physical
This was the medical checklist from Los Angeles AFB where I did my final out-processing physical. There was a specific person/office assigned to working final physicals.
1. Submit request for copy of medical records-DD Form 2870.
2. Register on eBenefits.
3. Complete DD Form 2807-1 and e-mail encrypted & typed form to your POC at your MTF.
4. Part A physical for audiogram and face to face review of DD Form 2807-1.
5. Part B Physical with provider.
6. Return or e-mail to your POC at your MTF the signed DD Forms upon completion of physical with provider (if applicable).
You will need these forms completed to turn into the VA in conjunction with your medical evidence. So basically the 2870 summarizes everything that you are wanting them to acknowledge that is “service connected”. Remember even if you fell down the stairs and broke your leg at home, if this happened while you were on active duty this is considered “service connected”. Too many times I hear people say well it wasn’t in combat. It is not required to be in combat. You are on active duty 24/7 so everything is “service connected”.
Now I totally understand if you think “no I can’t file for that, I’m ok”…well let me give you my advice, file it anyway! Let the VA decide if it deserves a rating or not. Then you can always decline the compensation if you so feel the need. But getting it evaluated and documented with a rating is essential. Because in 20 years…that same body part might really be bothering you and you might change your position on being compensated for it.
Also, if you are late to the game and you have never filed for VA disability compensation and it’s been a while since you’ve been out of the service but you still think you have a condition related to your service… apply! There is no filing time limit. It might take a while, but I tell you it’s worth the wait.
This was my timeline on my own claim process:
I filed on February 10, 2016 (before I separated), I retired on April 1, 2016, C & P exam was October 20, 2016, and my claims decision was finalized December 6, 2016.
Be advised~ I am still waiting on my retroactive pay.
My advice to you during this process
- Have patience.
- Get a copy of all medical records.
- Get assistance. Don’t try to do it alone. Find and appoint a representative. Organizations like the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, as well as State Departments of Veterans Affairs or Veterans Commissions and County Veteran Service Officers (VSO) can give excellent assistance and its free.
- Consider what you want to claim. I suggest looking through your medical records before you decide anything.
- When you are scheduled for your Compensation & Pension exams (aka C&P exams)…DO NOT MISS THEM!!
- Register and use eBenefits!!! (www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/homepage). I filed all of my claims using this site. Some veterans like to mail in their claims, but honestly, I liked this because you can track your status of your claim on here.
- Make sure all of your dependents are in DEERs before you separate.
- Register and use milConnect.
This was just something simple and brief. I hope it will help you through your journey too. I am happy to answer any questions you might have. You are welcome to comment on this post or use the contact tab and I will be happy to help.
Thanks for reading!
References & useful sites: