This Simple Mistake Could Cost You Thousands of Dollars in VA Benefits

Some veterans wait months, even years, to apply for VA Disability Compensation benefits. Maybe they feel like they aren’t “really disabled,” or that they aren’t “disabled enough.” Whatever the reason may be, there is no good reason to wait to file a claim. In fact, by waiting, veterans can lose out on thousands of dollars of back pay.

There is no time limit for most initial VA disability claims. However, you should file a claim as soon as possible because the filing date determines when your benefits begin. If you file for disability less than one year after your separation, your benefits will start on the day after your separation date. However, if you apply for benefits more than one year after your separation, your benefits will not start until the date of your application, or the date your disability began, whichever is later.

Here is an example:

Filing within 1 year of separation:

Separation date: January 1, 2016

Application date: June 1, 2016

Benefits will start as early as January 2, 2016

Filing more than 1 year after separation:

Separation date: January 1, 2016

Application date: February 2, 2017

Benefits will start as early as February 2, 2017*

*Benefits could start later, if the VA determines that your disability started after February 2, 2017.

In the second example, even though your disability began while you were in service, you missed out on 13 months of disability payments by waiting to file. Even for a veteran with the lowest disability rating of 10%, that is over $1,700 of benefits lost.

But remember, oftentimes it is years before you get the disability rating you deserve, so the benefits lost may be much higher.

If you are currently on active duty, you do not have to wait to apply until after your separation. You can apply 180-90 days before your separation from service through the pre-discharge program, called Benefits Delivery at Discharge. It is important to submit your disability compensation claim as close to 180 days prior to discharge as possible. This time is needed to complete your medical exam. The in-service exam may increase the ability to establish service connection for your condition(s). If you have less than 90 days remaining before separation, you may apply through the Decision Ready Claims Program.

The longer you way to apply the harder it may be to prove that your condition is connected to your military service. Applying right away will help ensure that you receive all the benefits for which you are eligible, even if you don’t have all the medical documentation you need yet. You can always submit documentation after you apply.

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Author: Kathryn L. Blevins, Esq.

Attorney. Small business owner. Military family. I am the owner and attorney at Blevins Law, LLC. My firm focuses on Social Security disability claims (SSI and SSDI), Veterans' Disability Compensation, Advance Medical Directives and medical and financial powers of attorney. I also assist veterans assessing other types of VA benefits they may be eligible for. I am licensed in Maryland and Washington, D.C., and am a VA Accredited Attorney. I am the proud wife of an Army veteran, and the proud mother of two amazing children and three rescued fur children.

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