VA Disability Claim Timeline
If you’ve filed a VA disability claim or are considering pursuing veterans disability benefits, you probably have a lot of questions about what to expect and how long the process will take. Of course, the exact timeline is different for every claim. As of the end of 2023, the VA’s average time for deciding a claim was 149 days.
Here’s what’s happening during that time, and what you need to know about when something may be expected from you to keep your claim moving forward.
Steps in the VA Disability Benefits Process
- The process begins when you file your claim with the VA. If you file your claim by mail, you’ll receive a letter acknowledging that your claim was received. If you file online, you’ll get an on screen confirmation that your claim has been successfully submitted.
- The VA conducts an initial review of your claim. The reviewer will determine whether any additional information is needed from you to proceed with your claim.
- The next step includes three different steps:
- Gathering evidence, including medical records, military records as needed, and additional information from you and others,
- Reviewing the evidence gathered, and
- Making a decision
- The VA describes the next step as “preparation for notification.” What that means is that they are assembling the notification packet they’ll send you. The fact that your claim is in preparation status doesn’t tell you anything at all about whether the claim was decided in your favor.
- When the process is complete, the VA will mail you a packet of information, including their determination.
Note that at every stage, it can take time for the VA to get a letter or other information out to you in the mail. Don’t worry if you don’t receive acknowledgment of your claim in the mail for a week or two, and know that a few weeks will likely pass between the time the VA makes a decision and you receive your determination in the mail. If you are entitled to monthly VA benefits, you should receive your first payment within about 15 days after you’re approved.
Of course, this only completes the process if you agree with the VA’s determination. If you do not, you have options for requesting review or appealing the decision. You may also file a supplemental claim. You may also be able to increase your disability rating by submitting a claim for a secondary-service-connected condition that was not included in the original claim and determination.
Depending on the type of appeal or review you choose, this may add one to several years to the process.
Fully Developed Claims Move Faster
You can get a quick determination on your claim for veterans disability benefits if you submit a fully developed claim. That means that you submit all of the evidence the VA will need to decide your claim along with your claim, and you certify to the VA that the evidence is complete.
This means that you must provide evidence such as medical records, relevant military records (including authorizing the VA to collect medical records not in your possession), and statements from others in your life who have relevant information.
If the VA agrees that they have all of the information needed to decide on your claim, you’ll get a quicker determination. If they disagree, your claim will be kicked back to the regular process so they can gather additional evidence. Still, filing a fully developed claim isn’t a decision you should make lightly–be certain that you do have all of the relevant evidence, or your claim could be denied because the VA didn’t realize there was more they should consider.
Keeping the VA Disability Claims Process Moving Smoothly
Many factors impact how long the disability review process takes. For example, gathering evidence appears at a specific point on the timeline. But, in reality, the process may circle back to evidence gathering as needed. For example, the examiner may gather evidence, review the evidence, and then determine that additional information is required, setting the process back to the gathering phase.
To keep your claim on track, you should provide as much information as possible to the VA, and act quickly to provide any additional evidence they request and/or attend scheduled examinations.
This evidence typically includes:
- Medical records (in-service and other relevant medical documentation) or authorization to collect medical records
- Statements from people who have direct knowledge of your condition and the symptoms and limitations you face
- If your condition is not presumed service-connected, a nexus letter from a medical expert explaining how your condition was caused or aggravated by or during your military service
Exactly what type of medical evidence is necessary will depend on the condition or conditions you are claiming VA disability benefits for. The severity of some types of conditions is readily measured by testing, while others are more observation and reporting-based. And, the specific symptoms, limitations, and measures required to support a specific disability rating vary by the condition in question.
This isn’t a place to cut corners. Though you will have opportunities to submit additional information later if your claim is denied, having to go through that process can dramatically delay your benefits.
An Experienced Veterans Disability Benefits Advocate Can Help
Even a strong claim for VA disability benefits can be denied or delayed if you don’t understand what is required to establish your claim or fail to provide the necessary documentation. At Disabled Vets, our advocates are dedicated to helping disabled veterans secure the benefits they need and deserve. They put their knowledge and experience to work every day helping ensure that veterans like you can submit the strongest, best-documented claims possible. If you’ve already been denied VA disability benefits or have received a disability rating you think is too low, we can help you determine the best path to request review, appeal, file a supplemental claim, or otherwise improve your outcome.
To learn more about how we can help, call (88) 373-4722 or fill out our contact form right now.