Applying for Disability Benefits
Being disabled doesn’t mean that you must have a noticeable disability. There are plenty of disabilities that are completely hidden from plain view. Back problems, hearing problems, breathing or respiratory conditions are just a few examples, but the list is extensive. This doesn’t mean that you should suffer in silence and not pursue what the VA has to offer. If you were injured in ANY way while serving in the military, you are entitled to access at least some of their benefits.
Today we will start the process of applying for compensation. As stated in the previous post, first things first – do you have a copy of your DD214? If not, stop right now and go back to read the previous post. You MUST have it for anything to happen. If you do have it, great! We can get started!
Start off by going here: https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/about/feature?feature=disability-compensation
This is the hub, that we spoke about earlier. If you haven’t registered yet, please take the time to do it. It is like the central terminal in order to get anywhere within the VA system. If you already have a username and password, go ahead and login. If not, create one – the requirement for the password is ridiculous so make sure you write it down. If you are not too comfortable with computers, right click the above link and select open in new window. This way you can switch back and forth while reading this post and follow along by pressing (alt + tab).
Okay, so we are logged in and ready to submit our claim for disability compensation.
Just so you are aware, this is typically how the process works:
Click “Apply”, then “Compensation”.
Step 1: Fill out the required paperwork: VA Form 21-526EZ (either on the ebenefits site or whatever site you are redirected to, at the time I am writing this, I am redirected to https://www.va.gov/disability/how-to-file-claim/ in order to file the claim from the ebenefits site)
Step 2: You will get a response with 60-90 days. I know it’s a pain, but it’s the military motto: HURRY UP and WAIT!
Step 3: Most likely, you will get something stating you need an evaluation by a healthcare professional located at a VA facility. This will get the ball rolling with setting up your healthcare facility. Sometimes they schedule the appointment for you and other times, you must do it yourself. Regardless, make sure you have an appointment and GO TO IT!! It’s so easy to ignore the appointment and figure it’s just something to slow down the process. However, if you don’t go – you must start the process all over again. It’s just not worth it. Considering, you will be compensated for gas mileage and possibly accommodations, there really is no reason not to go. If you need help getting a ride there, tell them. They will schedule a ride for you.
Step 4: Meeting with the doctor. Be upfront with the doctor. Tell them about how the problem affects you and impairs you. When the condition worsens, when it feels better, etc. Just tell them everything. The more information they have, the more likely they are to help you in getting treatment/compensation for the disability.
Step 5: Hurry up and wait. After the appointment with the doctor, it’s a waiting game. You will typically hear something back within about 60 days, sometimes a bit longer, with a decision.
Step 6: The decision. If you are approved for compensation, you will see something to that effect, and you will be required to setup direct deposit into your account. If you are denied, don’t despair. I’ll get into how to format an appeal in the next episode.
Now that you are approved and starting to receive compensation benefits, the necessary steps have been put in place in order to access the rest of your benefits. Continue to look into the ebenefits site and learn more about what you have access to.
Next time, we will get into how to format an appeal as well as begin some of the processes with education.