The process of filing VA disability claims can be very confusing. If you haven’t started the process yourself, you’ve probably heard stories about the problems with delays and mistakes and lengthy appeals. As you make your way through the process, try to avoid these five common mistakes:
1. Putting off the filing of your claim
One of the biggest mistakes is to put off filing a claim. If you’ve been wondering whether you’re eligible, or waiting to see if your symptoms improve – putting off filing a claim could cost you real money. If you receive an award, either with the first decision or on appeal, the benefits will be paid to you retroactive to the date of your original claim.
It works like unemployment benefits. Even though you may be entitled to receive the weekly payments, you must first claim the benefit. Similarly, you must file your claim to your disability benefits. Depending on the type of disability claim you file (a Fully Developed Claim, or a Standard Claim, for example) find out which form starts the clock for eligibility and get that in as soon as you can.
2. Not listing all of your symptoms
A common mistake is to try to name your condition rather than listing each of the symptoms on VA disability claims. The VA is obligated to follow-up on potential conditions that would cause each symptom you have. If multiple conditions are diagnosed, you receive a disability rating for each separate condition, which will then be combined into a single overall rating.
3. Thinking you’re too young; waiting until you’re older
You may think that if you’re young and can move around okay, that you might let the condition go for now. But if that knee injury or broken arm become arthritic later, you might be glad you applied now.
If the condition is recognized but you’re given a 0% rating now, you can still receive benefits later if the condition worsens, and then you’ll already have the service connection established. If the condition only interferes at a 10% level in your life now, that’s still $127 per month that you’re entitled to, which adds up.
4. Failing to pursue mental health claims
While PTSD tends to get a lot of media attention, and the VA has recently relaxed its evidence requirements for PTSD, many veterans may still be hesitant to seek disability benefits for other mental health conditions. There are a lot of other mental health issues that either occur during military service, or are aggravated by it, that entitle veterans to assistance. These conditions include: Depression, anxiety, amnesia, sleep problems, and panic attacks. If you can show a service connection, mental disorders are rated just like physical conditions, depending on the level of social and occupational impairment.
5. Not realizing there are benefits for a secondary disability
Many vets don’t realize that they are entitled to benefits for disabilities that are secondary to their service-connected disability. This is the case when a service-connected injury or illness either causes a new disabling condition, or aggravates a non-service-connected disability.
One example is a service-connected illness of diabetes, which can lead to other illnesses. Even if the secondary illness doesn’t develop until years later, you are still entitled to benefits if medical evidence or opinion can establish the connection. In some cases, the VA disability claims rating for the secondary disability could be at a higher percentage than was the original disability.