If a veteran had an issue while on active duty and it still has effects today, then the veteran may file a claim for a “service connected” disability. The important point here is that it must be service connected. As an example, if a veteran has type II diabetes and had boots on the ground in Vietnam, that veteran may be eligible for compensation. Your county veteran service officer has training to help file claims for service-connected disabilities.
Once the claim is filed, it is sent to the Regional Office in Indianapolis for processing. In that process, it is VA’s duty to obtain service treatment records or VA health care records — or other government health care records. If the veteran has private medical records, it is best and more efficient to bring those private records at the time of filing to help support the claim.
The RO will notify the veteran of the time and place for the Compensation and Pension exam. This notification can take two months or more. The C&P exam will only examine for the issues listed on the claim form (21-526EZ). So if the veteran wants another issue evaluated, it will not be considered in the C&P exam. The examination results will be entered in the VA’s system. The VA has guidelines for establishing the percentage of any compensation. The RO will then evaluate those results and any private medical records that were provided. This evaluation could take two or more months.
Results will be sent to the veteran. If the veteran is awarded compensation, it will be in increments of 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent, etc. The financial compensation will be deposited directly into a checking or savings account. There are some instances in which the disability will show service connected but 0 percent compensation. That means the disability is not severe enough for compensations. If the VA says the issue you are claiming is not service connected, the claim is considered closed. There is an appeals process that is available. The VA will not consider reopening the claim unless there is new and material evidence submitted with it.
The veteran has the opportunity to choose a service organization to help with representation to the VA. There are many service organizations to choose from, called POAs. The more well-known organizations are The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars and AMVets.
Richard Eckert, Whitley County Veterans Service Officer