Applying for Veterans Disability Benefits and Appealing Denials

What are disability benefits?

Disability Compensation is a tax-free monetary benefit paid to Veterans with disabilities that are the result of a disease or injury incurred or aggravated during active military service


Am I eligible for disability benefits?

  • You may be eligible for Disability Compensation if you have a current disability or injury that is related to your service AND if you received an honorable discharge or general discharge under honorable conditions.

  • A discharge of other than honorable requires a separate determination.

  • Individuals who received either a bad conduct discharge or dishonorable discharge, will not be eligible for disability benefits.

  • For other benefit information, contact the VAMC (below).


When can I file for disability benefits?

You can file for disability both before and after completion of your service.


How do I apply for disability benefits?

You can apply by filling out VA Form 21-526 (Veterans Application for Compensation or Pension)and attaching copies of all your supporting documentation with it either:

Note: Remember to double-check that you are filling out the most recent version of VA Form 21-526.


What documents should I submit?

  • Discharge or separation papers (DD214 or equivalent).

  • Service Treatment Records

  • Medical evidence (doctor & hospital reports).

  • Dependency records, if applicable (marriage certificate or child’s birth certificate).

Note: If you have any doubt as to whether or not you should submit documents, ALWAYS SUBMIT THEM!


What do I have to show in order to receive disability benefits?

  • In order to receive a disability rating, you must show that your disability is connected to your service.

  • You must show that you currently suffer from a disability, which began during or after your service, and that some event during your service caused the disability.

Note: This is the most important part of the whole process.

  • One way is to request your medical records from any medical facility you sought treatment from during your service by filling out DD Form 877.

  • If your disability went undocumented while you were in the service, you can:

- Fill out VA Form 10-5345, if you sought medical treatment after your service at a VA hospital.

- Submit a Buddy Statement Affidavit, if there were witnesses to you either reporting or complaining about the disability you are claiming.


Keep in mind: Department of Defense (DOD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) are two separate entities. Therefore, be sure that you are requesting your records from the correct agency.


How long does it take to receive a decision?

It takes approximately ten (10) months.


How do I appeal if I am denied?

  • First, upon receiving a denial, you must fill out and return the “Notice of Disagreement.”This preserves your right to appeal and ensures that any future approval will be backdated to the date of your original filing. Keep a copy for your records.

  • Next, fill out VA Form 21-0958. This is the form to appeal your decision.

Note: If you have not previously provided any supporting documents with your application, then you may submit them now as part of your appeal.


How long does the appeal process take?

  • After filing your appeal, you have two options:

- Traditional, formal in-person hearing; or

- Informal, non-appearance appeal in which your appeal is decided solely on the papers.

  • While the time for each appeal varies, an informal appeal generally takes 3 months where a formal appeal can take several years.

Remember: Always keep copies of any documents that you submit.


CLICK HERE TO VIEW PDF BROCHURE

We're committed to helping people in need vindicate their rights under the law.

  • Black Facebook Icon
  • Black Twitter Icon
  • Black YouTube Icon

Nassau Suffolk Law Services Committee, serving Long Island since 1966.
This website is designed for general information only.  The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.

LSC: Legal services corporation; America's Partner for Equal Justice