Why Is Your VA Claim Stuck In the Gathering of Evidence Stage?
The VA has a number of benefits available for veterans. From home loans to disability compensation, you get a varied range of benefits from the VA. However, some veterans don’t understand the disability claim process, which must take place first in order to unlock many of these benefits. Some veterans think that they can just submit the claim and the VA will provide the compensation automatically but that is not the case. You will have to submit claim supporting evidence and draw attention to the supporting documentation in the process. It is essential to gather evidence and prepare the claim correctly upfront or the process can be a big headache. If you are not sure about the evidence-gathering process, you must find an accredited representative to assist you in filing your claim, such as a VA claims agent with experience in offering VA claim assistance.
What Type of Evidence Is Needed?
VA disability is the top VA benefit that veterans seek aside from no-cost VA healthcare. You need to submit the proper evidence to establish your claim of service-related injury or health condition. The VA needs to understand that you have been injured in a service-related event. To get the compensation, you must establish that your current health condition is a result of the injury or illness acquired in the service. For this, you need to gather various documents. Below is a list of documents that you may wish to submit to support your claim(s):
You definitely need to send the VA your current or historical medical treatment records to establish a current diagnosis and to demonstrate that your lifestyle has negatively declined due to your service-related injury or illness.
You can submit your Service treatment records(aka STRs) which document and establish that you were injured while on active duty military service or in the line of duty. Many times the VA will retrieve your STRs for you, though.
You can also submit a "nexus letter" medical opinion, also known as an independent medical opinion from a private doctor or your treating doctor that shows a link between your health condition and a service-related event. This must be written in the VA's preferred language.
At times VA asks for additional documents. They may want additional proof that you have been injured in the line of duty. If you are asked to submit an additional document, you may have to enlist the no-cost help of a Veteran Service Officer(VSO) or, better yet, retain a VA-accredited claims agent or attorney to provide you with the assistance needed in gathering and organizing all of the supporting evidence to win your claim. An accredited representative such as a VA claims agent can also play a vital role in winning your claim by preparing a claim supporting legal brief for the VA. A well-written legal brief that simply makes the legal arguments that support your claims clear and plain so the eventual VA decisionmaker can easily connect the dots and grant service connection. If you have reports of any follow-up medical treatment or diagnostic tests/imaging, you can submit that to the VA to support your claim as well.
There is some evidence that gets significant additional attention from the VA. If you have been exposed to hazardous toxins, certain types of radiation, or burn pits and subsequently acquired a resulting medical condition, you should ensure VA is aware of this by submitting the official military records you have in your possession or other credible documented evidence like photos, sworn buddy statements, or even videos proving as much. There exist an abundance of methods and means available to a veteran to prove their VA disability compensation claims evidence-wise. An accredited, experienced VA advocate such as a VA claims agent can help a veteran gather, prepare for and submit sufficient, winning evidence to the VA. These types of VA claims get the special treatment of the VA due to favorable legal provisions enacted by congress for certain specific types of toxic exposure.
There are times when a VA claim gets denied. If your claim lacks proper documentation, it may get denied by the VA swiftly. For this reason, you need to find an experienced accredited claim agent or VSO to assist you in the VA claim submission process. Your goal in doing such should be to get VA’s approval on the first attempt and save yourself years of unnecessary frustration and denials.
The Link Between Your Medical Condition & Military Service
The most challenging part of a compensation claim can often be showing the link between a service-related event and your current health condition. If you find it difficult to show the link, you need to get help from a claims professional and a medical professional. Even though it is not needed to hire a professional for the claim process, you may need an expert’s experience in this matter. In most of the claim process cases, the documents submitted by you or your representative play a tremendous role in the ultimate decision rendered by the VA as to whether you get the disability compensation or whether you get a claim denial.
VA Claims Process And Evidence Insights
Submitting a VA claim may seem like investigating an essential event. You need to find and gather proper evidence. The journey must start with securing all the documents you have. It is important to collect all the documents and create a file. Always remember to keep the original copies to yourself if you are submitting a physical claim. The VA is not the most organized institution when it comes to evidence preservation. Therefore you should take all necessary steps to make and keep copies of every document submitted to support your claim. This is mainly because the VA has hundreds of thousands of other veterans' disability claims to process simultaneously with your claim's submission. The VA often has a backlog of claims, and things can get lost. You must be a little careful at the time of submission to avoid the pitfall of lost or misplaced claims evidence.
You must provide your name, VA file number(SSN), and/or other contact details in proper order. In the event that the VA reviewer sees a need for additional evidence or has questions about what you've submitted, they will be able to reach you in written form with a letter explaining what is needed 99% of the time. Sometimes you may get asked to sign forms for further medical examination by the VA.
The VA Disability Claim Process
The VA claim process begins with claim submission. Those who submit their claim by filling out online forms will get a digital message after the claim is submitted. Those who mail their application will receive a letter in a couple of weeks.
Once the letter of application is submitted, the review phase begins. After the initial claim gets reviewed, you will need to gather evidence for the VA to review. This is the most essential part of the VA claim process. Sometimes VA claims can get stuck in the gathering of evidence phase for long, unnecessary periods of time due to systematic and technical issues or human error. After reviewing your claim, the VA will decide whether to deny your claim, ask for more evidence, or grant the claim.
How Long Does A Claim Take To Fully Process?
Veterans often wonder about the duration and timeline of the whole claim process. Usually, it takes about 120-160 days for the VA to review your claim and assign a rating on an original claim for compensation. However, sometimes it takes much longer. Again, if VA needs more evidence, you will be asked to submit it, and thereby, the process will take a longer time. In the case that you suspect that your claim is stuck or held up for some reason, you need to make some effort to find out the reason so you can resolve it quickly. Always respond to all letters and communications from the VA within 7 days of receipt of the correspondence. It is also highly advised that you always respond in written form, rather than calling the VA, in order and in an effort to leave a paper trail others can later point back to if needed.
You can begin by checking the current status of your VA claim. You can visit your profile at va.gov or download the VA's mobile app to check the status of the claim. Here you will get the current status and some indication of where the claim is in the process. If you are unable to find the information about your current status on the website, you can ask your accredited VA representative for help. VA can assist you in this. Your claim agent would be happy to help you find out what is holding up your claim if it is indeed stalled.
The VA National Call Center 1-800-827-1000 hotline can provide you with the status of your claim as well. You can give them a call to check the status but remember it's best to keep most communications with VA in writing.
What to Do to Speed up the Process?
It may seem a little challenging to be patient when your VA claim is stuck. However, being impatient will not help you much. Therefore, you need to try to gather yourself, proactively give the VA what it is they request, and need to make a decision, and then the only thing left to do besides possibly attending a C&P examination or requested hearing is to wait for a rating decision to be produced from them.
The timeline for a claims decision varies based on the number and type of claim developments the VA has to perform that are both necessary to satisfy legal requirements and to reach a correct decision. Therefore and importantly, it is not possible to provide you with a defined rating decision timeline beyond our best estimation because claim timelines are simply not consistent whatsoever in any two single cases.
While you are waiting for a decision, you should keep seeking current medical treatment. Finally, you can always check your claim status online at va.gov.