VA Claims Information
STEP 1: CLAIM FORM and MILITARY RECORDS
What is a claim?
In order for the VA to acknowledge a service-connected disability, a claim must be filed. Only a FORMAL claim can be acknowledged and worked up. However, an INFORMAL claim is possible to get the process noted for date of claim and to get the ball rolling.
According to the VA, you may file an informal claim as long as you file a FORMAL claim within their time limits. If you fail to file a FORMAL claim within that time frame, the informal claim will not be addressed.
According to the M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart ii, Chapter 2, Section D (see Additional Links, this website for the actual document)-
Characteristics of an Informal Claim:
An original claim not filed on the prescribed form
An unsigned application (Except via VONAPP)
Evidence of examination or hospitalization in a VA or uniformed services health care facility, or
Any communication regarding the death of the appellant in an appeal
- submitted to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC), and
- furnished to VA by CAVC.
An original claim made by telephone
NOTE: There are some instances where an informal claim is not acknowledged.
To file the formal claim, you have three choices:
NOTE: If you call the VA, also request a pamphlet known as the Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependents (P94663). You can also download it from the VA Website. (This booklet will not be used in the claim, but if you don't request it, it won't automatically be sent to you.)
Military records can be difficult to get if you write your branch of service direct. You also might not get everything available in your file.
Here's the reason:
(See Step 6, Online Research, Miscellaneous, Finding Records for links to some helpful sites.)
(Also, a topic link found in Additional Information that offers information for Active Military Personnel might be of use.)
ATTENTION ACTIVE MILITARY PERSONNEL-
There are steps you can take while still active that should help when filing a claim with the VA. See Additional Information, this website, for more.
If you file a claim while still in the service, the service will send that application and the service medical records to the VA. However, the VA can take no action to process until the first day following the separation from your active military service.