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The Veterans Affairs Claims Process

What VA Does after It Receives Your Claim

After VA receives your Application for Compensation, it sends you a letter. The letter explains what VA needs in order to help grant your claim. It states how VA assists in getting records to support your claim. The letter may include forms for you to complete, such as medical releases. They help VA obtain pertinent medical records from your doctor or hospital. You should try to complete and return all forms VA sends within a month. Your claim can often be processed more quickly if you send a copy of your own medical records. This letter is often referred to as the Duty to Assist letter.

hadit.com Tip 

Before signing any forms once they are completely fillled out. Make several copies to keep in your fles in case the one you send gets lost, then all you have to do is sign it and send it in. 

What Records VA Obtains to Support Your Claim 

VA then attempts to get all the records relevant to your claimed medical conditions from the military, private hospitals or doctors, or any other place you tell them. The person who decides your claim (called a Rating Veterans Service Representative) may order a medical examination. This is referred to as a compensation and pension exam. This examination is free of charge. It is extremely important that you report for your examination at the scheduled time to avoid delaying your claim.


hadit.com Tip 

Read our Things to do at a compensation and pension exam.

Review the official compensation and pension exam worksheets the VA provides Here

Getting Started

VONAPP -- fill out a disability compensation claim online. 

Alternatively, you may print and mail-in Form 21-526 or call VA at 1-800-827-1000 to ask to have the form mailed to you.


Other Resources, Reference and Links

Veterans Service Organizations -- Veteran advocacy groups that are recognized for purposes of claims representation have trained staff members to assist you in the preparation and pursuit of your claim.

Rate Tables -- Quick review of payment levels at various levels of disability.

Benefits Booklet -- A download with more than 100 pages of detail about a variety of benefits available to veterans.





What to Expect during the Medical Examination

You should expect the examiner performing your medical examination to evaluate the condition(s) listed on your claim for benefits. Depending on the number and type of disabilities claimed, the length of the examination will vary. Psychiatric examination or that for multiple disabilities requires more time to evaluate. The examiner may ask more questions about your disability's history, review pertinent medical records, or order additional testing or examinations, if necessary. The examination will not include any form of treatment for disabilities or acute illnesses. Unless additional information, tests, or evaluations are needed, the completed evaluation will be documented and forwarded to the VA Regional Office for processing.

Read more about the Comepnsation and Pension Medical Exam

What VA Does after Obtaining Your Records

After the Rating Veterans Service Representative has attempted to secure all the records (or evidence) required by law (including the report of any examinations), he/she reviews your file and makes a decision on the claim according to the law and the particular facts in your case. In the rating decision, the Rating Veterans Service Representative lists the evidence, the decision, and the reasons for it. VA then sends the decision with a cover letter. If benefits are granted, the letter provides the monthly payment amount and the effective date. Payments usually begin soon after you receive the letter (see Disability Award Attachment Information). However, if benefits are not granted and you think the decision was in error, or if you think the percentage evaluation or effective date is wrong, you may appeal. see How Do I Appeal


Popular Pages
Do's and Don'ts for your VA Compensation and Pension Exam

You may also find these related references helpful:

Compensation and Pension Examination Worksheets by disability - These Disability Examination Worksheets are in use both by the doctors of VHA (Veterans Health Administration) who do the disability examinations and by the rating specialists, hearing officers, and Decision Review Officers of VBA (Veterans Benefits Administration) who do the disability evaluations.

38CFR4 VA Schedule for Rating Disabilies - This rating schedule is primarily a guide in the evaluation of disability resulting from all types of diseases and injuries encountered as a result of or incident to military service. The percentage ratings represent as far as can practicably be determined the average impairment in earning capacity resulting from such diseases and injuries and their residual conditions in civil occupations.

Establishing Service Connection for Veterans Affairs Disability Compensation:

There are two types of service-connection 1. Direct and 2. Presumptive There are three requirements to establish Direct service-connection for residuals of injuries and issues; 1. In-service documentation of an injury or disease. 2. A current condition with a medical diagnosis.

Veterans Self Help Guide

Win Your Veterans Affairs Disability Claim - You finally decided to file a VA claim for disability, so now what do you do? Maybe you already have started the paperwork yourself or have been helped by a veterans service officer (VSO) filling out the required VA Forms and are now one of many waiting to hear from the VA about your claims status.

A Veterans Benefits Affairs Rater's View - "Worth a read" - Tbird (webmaster HadIt.com) First, allow me to introduce myself with some background info. I am a veteran, a nurse, a woman, and decide VA disability claims.

I share many of the frustrations of veterans when I see claims that have not been properly or expeditiously decided. It is my mission to correct these where possible. I have called errors on prior decisions and awarded benefits back to the original claim date. I'm sure that I also have made errors and hope others have caught and corrected these.

Definitions, Terms, Abbreviations

No VA Claim Filed Yet?


In general , the claimant must be a veteran or the dependent or survivor of a veteran‚ in order to be eligible. For VA purposes, the definition of veteran‚ is‚ a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable.‚ Source: 38CFR3.1(d)


Disability compensation. (1) Basic entitlement for a veteran exists if the veteran is disabled as the result of a personal injury or disease (including aggravation of a condition existing prior to service) while in active service if the injury or the disease was incurred or aggravated in line of duty. Source: 38CFR3.1(b)

In plain English and general terms. In order to receive service connected disability compensation through Veterans Affairs. You must have an other than dishonorable discharge. And you must have evidence that the disability occurred or was aggravated in the line of duty.


Applying for VA Benefits
One of the more difficult tasks for a returning veteran is applying for the many VA benefits. The unknown of "should I," "would I qualify," "how do I apply," or "where do I go for help" can be a frustrating experience. VA intends to ease those frustrations and facilitate your transition from active participation in armed conflict back to civilian life with some basic tips for applying for benefits.


G.I. Bill 2008

Veterans: Find out how the new GI Bill affects you. You can calculate your new benefits by clicking here.

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