Filing a disability claim can be a complicated and frustrating process if you are not familiar with it. Many people who file have a lot of questions and concerns regarding their claim and the benefits to which they have a right. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions and some answers.

What Kind of Benefits Can I Expect?

VA benefits fall into several categories. There is the “Non-Service Connected Pension”, which is intended for veterans who are disabled and have very low-income. There are also education benefits, burial benefits, and health care benefits. There is also compensation for diseases and disabilities that are the result of military service. The main benefit offered for all of these categories is financial. The VA will use an algorithm to determine the percentage of disability and how much your pay out should be.

How Do I File

Legend has it that in the past, all you had to do was write down your claim on any piece of paper, including some toilet paper. Now, however, it is much more complicated. There are several steps involved. The first step is the filing phase. You fill out an informal claim on the appropriate form. You can make it a formal claim after a year and it will be treated as such. This may sound strange, and it is. The next step is the development phase. This is when the VA will work to find evidence to help your claim. You can also develop your own evidence by filing a “fully developed claim” form. These claims are often settled more quickly. Finally, we have the decision phase. This is when the VA decides on your case and whether you should receive benefits. If you are successful, they will also decide on the percentage.

When and Where Do I File?

It is best to file your claim less than a year after you leave the service. Sometimes, however, a condition may not be diagnosed for a long time, sometimes years, after leaving service. If that is the case, then your best option is to file an informal claim to protect the earliest possible effective date. Head to your VA regional office to file your claim, if you would like. You can also file online. If you want to be certain that you have a solid paper trail, then you can also file through the Evidence Intake Center in Janesville, Wisconsin.

Who Can Help Me With My Claim?

Theoretically, anyone can help with your claim, as long as you trust them. It is illegal for anyone to charge you a fee for helping you, however. You can get the services of an attorney, but only if your claim has been declined. There are organizations, such as the Disabled American Veterans and the Veterans of Foreign Wars that will help with filing, but even in these organizations the help can be hit and miss.

How Long Is the Claims Process?

The time from when you file your claim to when the VA makes a decision can vary depending on several factors. For one, how complicated your situation is may affect the length of time. If your claim is well prepared and has a lot of information, that will help your claim go through faster. While the VA has some time frames listed on their website, the truth is that you should expect it to take about 12-18 months. If you file with a small urban or a rural VA office, then your claim may take a little less time than an office in a large metropolitan area.

Filing a VA benefits claim is not a simple procedure. Your best bet is to make sure you have all your ducks in a row and to provide the VA with all of the information possible to help your claim be successful.