The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has many forms that may be confusing to veterans starting the process of filing a claim for VA disability compensation benefits.
File an “Intent to File a Claim”
For instance, the VA has a form titled “Intent to File a Claim”, which is VA Form 21-0966. Another form, titled “Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits”, is VA Form 21-526EZ. It is very important for veterans to understand the difference between these two forms.
An “Intent to File a Claim” is not a claim at all. This form lets the VA know that you will be filing a claim in the future. This form is normally used when you know you need to file a claim but haven’t gathered all the necessary evidence yet. The form is very simple and short; it does not ask for any specific information regarding your service or the disability you are claiming.
Gather all relevant paperwork and evidence
By filing an “Intent to File a Claim” form, you have a year to gather all paperwork and evidence needed. If the VA awards the benefits, it will be from the date you filed your intent to file claim.
For instance, say a veteran receives a cancer diagnosis which he believes was due to exposure to Agent Orange. It may take a while to gather his service records, medical opinions, or other evidence that prove he is entitled to the benefits. If he files an Intent to File claim in January 2020, he has until January 2021 to file the actual claim with supporting documentation. If he files the claim in January 2021 and wins, the VA will backdate the effective date of benefits to January 2020.
However, it is important to understand that an “Intent to File a Claim” is not a claim at all. If the veteran does not follow up with an actual claim within a year, the VA will close the case.
Apply for VA disability compensation
To file an actual claim with the VA, a veteran needs to file an application for Disability Compensation, VA Form 21-526EZ. This form provides the VA with more information as to where you served and the type of benefits you are seeking. Once you file a claim with the VA, you have a year to complete the claim by filing all the necessary evidence to support your claim.
Once you have filed your claim, the VA will make a decision regarding disability compensation.
Appeal the VA’s decision, if necessary
If you received a decision from the VA and are dissatisfied with the outcome, contact us at 1-877-838-1010. There may be something you can do to have a better chance of establishing entitlement to VA disability compensation benefits. Our experienced veteran’s benefits attorneys will be happy to review the decision and provide you with a free consultation.