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How To Win Your Claim
How do I win my claim?
Winning your claim isn't a spectator sport. Every day we see veterans and others who knee-jerk to the standard advice, "Call your VSO! He'll take care of it for you."
We believe that our veteran status entitles us to be able to hand over our VA disability claim problems to an experienced expert who will "take care of it" for us. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If you don't get involved, if you don't have the time, if you don't like to read all those rules and regulations...you lose. For example, this is a very long page. If you don't have time???
There's a reason for that. We're presenting to you the best we have regarding how to win a VA disability claim. If you have a well grounded claim and you invest a few hours of your time to learn how to play the game...strictly by the rules and regulations...you'll win.
The patience of a saint and the tenacity of a junkyard dog are all that's required.
It's that easy.
Understand the VA Disability Claims Process. The more you know about how VA really works, the better.
Businesses large and small are similar in many ways. Each business has a product. Whether manufacturing widgets, caring for patients in a hospital or selling flowers, what a business does at the end of the day is its product.
One of the important products of VA is the fair and timely adjudication of a veterans claim for disability benefits. This occurs within the Compensation and Pension (C&P) division of the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). The VBA is one part of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
To build the VA product means that raw material (The VA Form 21-526 application and supporting evidence) enters via the mail room and through a defined process, the accumulated material is formed into an adjudicated decision. Subsequently a letter of award or denial is delivered to the veteran.
Businesses are often divided into categories that define how they operate. Some businesses are customer driven. In a customer driven business the customers largely define the end products that the business produces. This might be true of Ben and Jerry's ice cream, for example.
Other businesses are driven by a pre-defined, complex and rigid process. Companies or entities that are regulated by strict laws are often process driven; The IRS, medical device manufacturers and pharmaceutical manufacturers are oriented to numerous processes, laws, rules and regulations that control how they operate.
The VA is a process driven business. To the VA the process of adjudication of the claim is a goal unto itself. VA "customers" are paid scant attention. Crossing T’s and dotting I’s are seen as integral to accomplishing daily goals.
There is little room for “customer” error in the VA process. Mistakes in completing the process are not often overlooked or forgiven.
The process of getting the VA Form 21-526 from input to decision and notification is the driver for everything done at the VA Compensation and Pension service.
The veteran and/or advocate who may try to skirt around the process will do so at their own peril. If a notice received by mail tells the veteran that an adverse action is being proposed, it also tells the vet that in order to disagree with the proposal the veteran must take certain actions. Usually the required actions involve a timely written communication to the VA from the veteran.
Many veterans ignore this step in the process and start a series of phone calls in hopes of finding a sympathetic ear who can fix the problem without all the fuss of letter writings. This is always a mistake. The process must be followed or the veteran will lose.
The veteran or advocate who takes time at the start of the process to learn basic VA expectations and requirements will fare better than anyone who chooses to wing it.
Do you really have a claim?
Veterans are allowed to file for anything (injury, illness) they believe is connected to their military service. Not that long ago VA required that your claim be "well grounded" or they didn't have to adjudicate it.
Today you can file for anything that comes to your mind. However, if your claim doesn't have evidence, if you don't have a current condition, if you haven't been treated for what you want to claim, do your homework before you file.
Yes, it's important to get the claim in so that the effective date is recorded as early as possible. However, if you don't have a claim, why bother?
This is difficult to discern in a lot of cases. We get email from vets all the time who are clearly trying to milk the system.
Be reasonable. If you really believe you have an injury of illness that your military service caused or contributed to, file. If you just want some extra money and you think this is a good way to get it, don't bother.
File That Claim! It isn't going to file itself.
The claim that isn't filed can't be won.
This is a simple concept, yet many veterans spend months and years debating with themselves whether or not it's worth the trouble.
We hear it all the time..."I don't have the time to mess with the VA."
Let's see; It will take you an hour or two at most to complete the VA Form 21-526 if this is your first claim and about that same amount of time to write a letter if you have an existing benefit already.
Then, at some point after you submit your claim, you'll be scheduled to attend a C & P examination. That may take a day or two, depending on how far away you are from the facility where the exam will take place.
Along the way, you'll probably get a handful of letters from the VA that make no sense at all to you and reading those will consume a few hours.
Eventually you'll get your award letter. That's probably going to take 2 years. If you've done it right the first time and you get the award you believe is correct, you're finished. You'll probably be notified of a few thousand dollars of retro pay being deposited in your bank account.
You don't have time for all that? I don't believe it and neither does anyone else.
If you believe that you have a disabling condition that is somehow linked to your military service, go ahead and file. You may have to give up a few episodes of your favorite TV show to get it done but the reward will be cash money. If you don't want to do it for yourself, do it for your family.
File the claim. Do it now.
If you have a condition, any injury or illness, and you reasonably believe that the condition was caused by or aggravated by your military service, you are eligible to file a claim for VA disability compensation.
On this page you'll learn what it takes to win as you file your claim.
The process is really pretty simple. Don't believe all the chatterboxes that plague the Internet with horror stories. Most of the nameless, faceless, whining voices you'll hear in chat rooms either didn't have a well grounded claim to begin with or they turned it over to a stranger so that person could "represent" them.
When they lose their claim, they're always pissed off at the VA. There's plenty of reason to be pissed off at the VA...that's a fact. But, if you follow each and every one of the tips you'll read here, you will win your claim.
The VA process of adjudication (making a decision) on your claim is straightforward. If you stick to the rules from the start, your claim is more likely to have a smooth trip through that VA Regional Office of yours. If you try to manipulate the process or if you don't think the rules should apply to you, you will lose.
All the things you'll read on this page are compiled from years of experiences helping vets with claims. The items below are presented to you in no particular order. Each one is as important as the next.
There is work involved. You have to do the work. This page contains a lot of facts and references. We've answered a few of your most common questions here.
If you aren't willing to read all of this page thoroughly, stop here. You're wasting your time and our bandwidth.
If you like winning, please proceed. We're doing our part to help. We've laid out this page, the entire web site, to make the world of the VA benefit claim as simple as we can for you.
The rest is up to you.
Filing...and winning...a claim at your VA isn't rocket science.
No matter what others would have you believe, if you take a little time to understand the rules and if you have a well grounded claim, you'll prevail. To prevail will take some time. How long that will be will vary with a lot of different circumstances and there's not much you can do to control some things that happen. But if you are willing to learn how VA insists the game be played. you'll win. It really is that easy.
The rules aren't difficult. You must be eligible. You must have evidence of an event in service that caused you illness or injury. You must have evidence that the in service event is the source of the condition(s) you claim today.
How hard is that?
VAWatchdog believes that most veterans are intelligent. We know that nobody cares about your claim the way you do. We strongly recommend that veterans file their own claims without the assistance of and sort of representative...except for an appeal. We urge veterans to retain a veterans law attorney for every appeal. To DIY means that there is no middleman, no lost papers and no misunderstandings. If you DIY you won't be pressured into buying a life membership in some organization that you have little use for. The VA rules and regulations must be followed. That's not a big deal once you grasp just how simple your claim can be. So...get started.
File your claim today.
If you don't have the time or patience to do all of this work now, how will you find the time to work on the more complex appeal?
We think that filing a claim is pretty easy. All that's required is that you play by the rules. That means that you have to understand what the rules are. There are no shortcuts. You must think like the VA rater who will make the decision on your claim.
Just because you do it right the first time isn't a guarantee of success. Doing it right the first time increases the odds for success in your favor. The VA is badly broken and it may take the most perfect claim and still get it wrong.
But, if you do your part and make your claim undeniable, you're way ahead of those who handed it off to a stranger to complete for them.
Don't be one of those who look back in time and write to us to say, "I should have filed that claim a long time ago. I lost a lot of money over the years."
That claim isn't going to file itself. What are you waiting for?
You want some more of this??? Can you take it???
Click here to go to Page Two of tips on how to win your claim.