VA Claims Processing Information
Navigating the resources available to veterans can be confusing, but DAV believes no veteran should have to go it alone. Below you can find information and resources that can help ease the process of attaining earned benefits, coping with the lasting effects of service-connected injuries and finding programs and services that meet your specific needs.
DAV Department Service Officers (DSO) and Chapter Service Officers (CSO) provide the most important links in the organization. They are responsible for providing timely information about benefits that are available to veterans, their dependents and survivors. The primary function of the Service Officer is to advise, instruct and counsel claimants and to provide assistance in the preparation of claims for various benefits to which claimants may be entitled. When an inquiry is taken or after an appropriate form is properly completed, such information is then forwarded to the National Service Office having jurisdiction.
DAV must have power of attorney (VA Form 21-22) in order to assist a veteran or claimant in connection with a Department of Veterans Affairs claim. Many veterans and/or claimants are not familiar with this procedure; nor do they know that DAV is in a position to assist them.
The days of being able to informally start disability claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs by writing a simple statement on a sheet of paper are over. That will no longer secure an effective date for the evaluation of an award. Laws that went into effect March 24, 2015 will require claimants to use specific forms for claims and appeals.
The new laws require that all claims to the VA be filed on standard forms, regardless of the type. The VA states that abolishing the longtime practice of informally initiating veterans’ disability claims will be one way of improving the quality and timeliness of processing.
“These new processes will leave no doubt as to the effective dates of claims,” said National Service Director Jim Marszalek. “Of course, our 3,815 National, Department and Chapter Service Officers, including County Veteran Service Officers accredited by DAV, are ready to help everyone get through and understand these new requirements.”
The new law eliminates the practice of using reports of hospitalizations, examinations and other medical records to serve as the start of informal claims for increase or to reopen while retaining the retroactive effective dates.
The change also affects appeals. Under the new laws, the VA will accept an expression of dissatisfaction or disagreement with its decision as a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) only if it is submitted on a standardized form.
There are three major components to these changes.
First, the traditional informal claims process is being standardized with a new standard form, VA Form 21-0966, Intent to File a Claim for Compensation and/ or Pension, Survivors Pension, or Other Benefits. The form is designed to capture information necessary to identify and support compensation, pension and other benefit claims. An individual or their representative can submit this form in order to establish a potential effective date for benefits and then take up to a year to gather the evidence necessary to support the claim. The form may be submitted electronically, on paper or over the phone. The form is electronically available through eBenefits. The form can be submitted there or in hard copy by mailing it to a DAV National Service Office. The form can also be completed by a VA call center representative over the phone or by a DAV National Service Officer (NSO).
Submitting an Intent to File claim protects an effective date of benefits for up to one year, meaning individuals seeking compensation or pension benefits will have a full year to gather and submit evidence necessary to support their claim. The new rule does not require that evidence necessary to support a claim be submitted in order for the claim to be recognized as complete and for the VA to take action.
The new regulations allow the VA to award increased benefits retroactive to the date of medical treatment, as long as the form is filed within one year of the treatment and the required claim form is filed within a year after that.
Second, if veterans wants to file for compensation, they can do so online. If that is not possible or desirable, use of the EZ forms becomes mandatory under the new regulations. VA Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits, is needed for paper submissions. Pension claims must be filed on VA Form 21-527EZ, Application for Pension. Survivors’ claims for dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC), survivors’ pension and accrued benefits must be filed on VA Form 21-534EZ, Application for DIC, Death Pension, and/or Accrued Benefits.
The EZ forms were previously available on an optional basis. Under the new regulations, the VA will mandate their use. Veterans and survivors do not have to file fully developed claims (FDCs) when using these mandatory forms, but the VA encourages FDC participation because it can expedite delivery of benefits through the FDC program.
Third, the changes mandate use of a standardized notice of disagreement form when a claimant wishes to initiate an appeal of a VA decision. Claimants will initiate the appeal of a decision with which they disagree by explaining their disagreement on VA Form 21-0958, Notice of Disagreement.
NSOs are being trained in these new laws and forms, and this will be a key topic in this year’s Department and Chapter Service Officer Certification Training Program.
Veterans, family members and survivors should always feel free to contact their local DAV National Service Office with any questions about claims, appeals and compensation. Contact information for those offices can be found online at DAV.org/ veterans/find-your-local-office/.
The Fully Developed Claim
The Fully Developed Claims (FDC) process is the fastest way of getting our clients’ claims for compensation or pensions processed. Participation in the FDC process allows for timelier claims, so we strongly feel that utilizing this approach will provide our clients with greater quality of service and thorough representation.
THE INFORMAL FDC PROCESS: The claimant has one year from the date the Informal FDC is submitted to VA to submit a Formal FDC. It is imperative that no issues are listed within the memorandum. If the issues are specified within the Informal FDC, it will be considered a formal claim and will result in being adjudicated under the traditional process.
The language criteria that should be used on a DAV Memorandum and/or VAF 21-4138 for an Informal FDC must read in part:
“I intend to apply for compensation/pension benefits under the FDC program. This statement is to preserve my effective date for entitlement to benefits. I am in the process of assembling my claim package for submission. I also understand that I have one year to complete the claim or I will lose the effective date of claim.”
Before a VA Form 21-526EZ, 21-527EZ, or 21-534EZ is submitted, all additional evidence and information that would have originally been acquired or requested through a traditional claims process is reviewed in depth by an NSO and then submitted as a complete application. This is important as it may allow for additional claims such as secondary issues to be filed while maintaining the effective date as the date of receipt the informal FDC was received.
Additional evidence and information includes, but is not limited to the following: • Private treatment reports from non-VA facilities; • Personal statements; • Lay statements; • Additional VA Forms; • Medical opinions; • Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs).
Ensure the importance of attending all VA examinations and not submitting additional claims will exclude them from the FDC process. Furthermore, understand that an FDC has to be completed in its entirety upon submission and cannot provide additional information subsequent to formalizing the FDC as this will exclude you from the FDC process.
It is important to understand that in order to submit a FDC can take some time to gather all available information before submitting the claim. The veteran has the ultimate responsibility to provide the information necessary. This information must link any claimed illness or injury to military service. Submission of a claim with missing information will delay the processing of the claim and or denial due to “no service connection” or “lack of medical evidence to support illness or injury”.
What is eBenefits?
eBenefits is a joint VA/DoD web portal that provides resources and self-service capabilities to Veterans, Service members, and
their families to research, access and manage their VA and military benefits and personal information. eBenefits uses secure
credentials to allow access to personal information and gives users the ability to perform numerous self-service functions. It also
provides a list of links to other sites that provide information about military and Veteran benefits. It is an essential way for
Veterans, Service members, and their families to receive access to and service from VA and DoD.
What can I do in eBenefits?
Some of the features within eBenefits allow Veterans and Service members to access official military personnel documents, view
the status of their disability compensation claim, transfer entitlement of Post-9/11 GI Bill to eligible dependents (Service
members only), and register for and update direct deposit information for certain benefits. For a full list of features, see the
reverse side of this fact sheet. New features are being added regularly.
How do I access eBenefits?
eBenefits is located at www.ebenefits.va.gov. Before Veterans can access and use eBenefits they must be listed in the Defense
Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) and obtain a DS Logon. Service members can access eBenefits with a DS Logon or
Common Access Card (CAC). They can choose from two levels of registration, DS Logon Level 1 (Basic) and DS Logon Level 2
(Premium). Note: If Veterans attempt to register and are informed they have no DEERS record, VA will first need to verify their
military service and add them to DEERS. All VA Regional Offices have staff familiar with procedures for adding a Veteran to
What is a DS Logon?
A DS Logon is a secure identity (username and password) that is used by various DoD and VA websites, including eBenefits. If you
are already registered in DEERS, you are eligible for a DS Logon. Once you have a DS Logon, it’s valid for the rest of your life.
How do I register for an eBenefits account?
You can register for an eBenefits account online using the eBenefits DS Logon Account Registration Wizard. There are two types
of registration, Basic and Premium. You will be walked through a series of questions to assist you in obtaining a Premium
eBenefits Account, which gives you the highest level of access to eBenefits features. With a Premium Account you can view
personal data about yourself in VA and DoD systems, apply for benefits online, check the status of your claims, update your
address records, and more. To get a Premium eBenefits Account, you must verify your identity.
Many people will be able to verify their identity online by answering a few security questions. Service members may verify their
identity online by using their CAC. Military retirees may verify their identity online using their Defense Finance and Accounting
Service (DFAS) Logon. For those unable to verify their identity online, you will instantly receive a Basic Account. A Basic eBenefits
Account lets you customize the site and access information you enter into eBenefits yourself; however, you cannot see your
personal information in VA or DoD systems. However, there are other options available to you. Veterans in receipt of VA
benefits via direct deposit may have their identity verified by calling 1-800-827-1000 and selecting option 7. Others may need
to visit a VA Regional Office or TriCare Service Center to have their identities verified in person.