Applying for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability benefits can be an important part of a successful transition from military service to civilian life.
The VA may determine that you have a disability caused by or made worse due to your active military service. If you sustained an injury or developed an illness because of your active military service, then you may have one or more disabilities that are considered service-connected by the VA.
When Can You File a VA Disability Claim?
A VA disability claim can be filed as early as 180 days before you separate from the service. This is known as the Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) claim process. The process allows the VA to administer necessary health exams while you’re still on active duty. Getting a head start on your health exams can help expedite the review process, so you get a benefits decision sooner.
Who Can Help You File a VA Disability Claim?
There is a network of resources available to help you file a BDD VA claim, including Transition Assistance Program (TAPS) workshops, and you can use a Veterans Service Organization (VSO) to assist you. A VSO can help you prepare and submit your claim and will act as a Power of Attorney to represent your claim to the VA. VSOs will file claims free of charge, and you do not need to be a member of the organization to use their services. You can find an accredited VSO here. On the Office of the General Counsel Accreditation page, use the search application to find an accredited VSO.
What Do I Need to Apply for VA Disability Benefits?
When preparing to transition out of the service, you should request a complete set of your service treatment records (STRs) to submit to the VA as part of your BDD claim, and you’ll want to keep copies for your own records. These STRs should include:
- Military entrance physical results and all periodic health assessments
- Inpatient and outpatient records
- Military and private medical documents
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) records
- Behavior health records
- Dental records
Lastly, it is important to attend all medical exams that are necessary for the adjudication of your VA claim. The BDD program exists to help eligible Veterans receive their VA disability compensation as soon as possible after they are released from active duty. Ensuring you receive all of the post-service benefits for which you are eligible is an important part of ensuring you have a successful military transition.
How AAFMAA Can Help
Thinking ahead now to the VA services you will need in the future will help ensure you've got everything you need in place when it's time to make your transition out of the service. If you'd like to speak with AAFMAA Member Benefits about your particular needs, please contact us anytime at 888-961-4573, select option 2, then option 2 again. Or, email us at [email protected].
This article was originally published December 15, 2022.