The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is the federal-level department tasked with providing support, both financial and other types, to our nation’s veterans.
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ roots trace back to the Revolutionary War, when the Continental Congress of 1776 provided disabled soldiers with pensions after the war. By Word War II, the Department had close to 20 million veterans to serve, with soldiers from both World War I and II seeking benefits. Today, it operates on an annual budget of approximately $78.4 billion.
As a veteran, you can file a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs for coverage for a wide variety of needs. Filing a claim with the VA is similar to filing a claim with a private insurance company. Once your claim is received, you may need to negotiate with an adjuster to determine a fair, adequate settlement for your needs. To make this process easier and more likely to result in a favorable outcome, work with an attorney who has experience handling Veterans Affairs claims.
Benefits Provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs
The Department of Veterans Affairs exists to help veterans live fulfilling, affordable lifestyles after they finish their military service. The Department offers the following benefits to veterans and their families:
- Education loans
- Home loans
- Life insurance
- Disability compensation
- Vocational support
- Healthcare coverage
- Survivor’s Benefits
- Funeral Expenses
These benefits are provided through the Veterans Benefits Administration.
Filing a Claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs
Veterans Affairs claims are handled through a program known as eBenefits. You must create an account with eBenefits to file your claim online. Once you have created your account, follow the instructions on the website to file your claim.
You also have the option to file your claim through the mail. To take this option, complete VA Form 21-526 and mail it to your regional Veterans Affairs office. Send all necessary documentation to the office along with this form to support your claim. Your attorney can advise you about which documentation to include. If you received treatment from a non-VA healthcare provider, you must also include a copy of VA Form 21-4142, Authorization and Consent to Release Information to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
If you anticipate needing help locating all necessary documentation to file your claim, visiting your local VA office in person might be the best choice for you. When you visit in person, a representative of the Department of Veterans Affairs can help you locate the records you need and submit them to the Department.
You can also work with a VA-accredited agent to handle your claim. He or she will work with you to locate the necessary documentation and submit your claim. These agents include attorneys, claims agents, and representatives for veterans’ service organizations (VSO).You can use the tool provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs to search through accredited agents online.
Appealing a Denied Veterans Affairs Claim
If your Veterans Affairs claim is denied, you have the right to appeal the VA’s decision about your claim. To do this, you must take the following steps:
- Send your appeal to the Veterans Affairs office that initially processed your claim within one year of the office sending your claim rejection.
- Upon receiving your appeal, the office will send you two documents: VA Form 9, Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and a Statement of the Case, which provides you with the Veterans Affairs’ reason for initially rejecting your claim in writing.
- Complete and sign Form 9 and return it to the VA office within 60 days of the date the office sent its Statement of the Case to you.
- The VA office then forwards your document to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. It will notify you once this step is complete.
- Once you are notified, you have 90 days to take any of the following actions: Request a hearing for your claim. If you take this option, the Board will conduct a hearing to go through the details of your claim and determine if your claim is valid.
- Whether you request a hearing or not, the Board will examine your case and offer its ruling. It may grant your claim, remand your claim, or deny your claim.
- Follow your appeal up with additional support for your claim.
- Hire an attorney to handle your appeal.
Remanding and Denying Claims
Claims are generally remanded because they do not have sufficient support or information to make a fair ruling. When this happens, the claim is sent back to the local VA office that initially handled the claim to have it reworked to meet the Board’s standards for an appeal. It may then be resubmitted for consideration.
- If your claim is denied, you have the following options:
- You can reopen your claim with your local Veterans Affairs office.
- You can file a motion to have the Board of Veterans Benefits reconsider your claim.
- You can appeal your claim again. This time, your claim will go through the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
You have 120 days from the date of the Board’s denial of your claim to take any of these actions. Talk to your attorney about your individual case and what you can expect with each option. He or she should be able to advise you toward the best choice for your denied claim.
Working with an Experienced Veterans Affairs Attorney
By working with an experienced Veterans Affairs attorney, you can make it easier to work through the process and receive a settlement in a timely manner. Your attorney will know how to negotiate with the Department and the Board to help you get a settlement that meets all your needs. They will also be able to keep you on track with your claim’s deadlines and guide you through the appeal process if your claim is denied.