As of March 24, 2015, the VA (Veterans Administration) implemented a new regulation requiring that all VA claims be filed on standardized forms. The VA will also no longer accept informal claims in order to establish a claimant’s effective date for benefits. Federal Register rule changes were announced here: Standard Claims and Appeals Forms; Final Rule
Filing a VA Disability Claim
In order to file an original VA disability claim, you must submit a completed VA Form 21-526EZ Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits identifying the specific disabilities you are claiming.
If you plan to file a claim but do not have all of the information needed to complete VA Form 21-526EZ, you may preserve the date of your claim by notifying the VA of your intent to file a claim through submitting a completed VA Form 21-0966 Intent to File a Claim for Compensation and/or Pension. This form is not a claim for benefits and a completed VA Form 21-526EZ must be submitted within one year from the date that your intent to file was received. If the VA decides you are entitled to the compensation benefits sought, you will be compensated from the date the VA received your intent to file.
These new standardized forms are mandatory and the VA will not process your claim for disability compensation until a completed VA Form 21-526EZ is received. We believe that it is absolutely essential that any document that is sent to the VA by a Veteran should be mailed by certified mail, return receipt requested and the Veteran should keep a complete copy of the signed document for his or her file. Additionally, the Veteran should keep a complete copy of all documents sent to and received from the VA.
These are the instructions from the form for where the claim should be mailed as of the publication of this blog post – April, 2017.
Where to Send Information and Evidence
Mail or take your application and any evidence in support of your claim to the closest VA regional office. VA regional office addresses are available on the Internet at www.va.gov/directory For instance, all claims for veterans who live in Alabama should be mailed by certified mail, return receipt, to the Alabama VA Regional Office, 345 Perry Hill Rd. Montgomery, AL 36109. For veterans who live outside of Alabama, find the complete mailing address for the VA Regional Office in the state in which you live.
Along these same lines, please follow these tips to help with your VA disability claim
- Mail everything that you send to the VA by certified mail, return receipt requested, so that you can prove exactly what you sent and when the VA received it. Right on the front of the green card that gets returned to you, write exactly what you sent to the VA under your name and address so that you can verify exactly what you sent to the VA and when the VA received it.
- Keep a full and complete copy of everything that you send to the VA.
- Keep a full and complete copy of everything that you receive from the VA
- Never ever miss a VA deadline! If you miss a VA deadline for any or all of your VA disability claims, then your claim will be ruled final and unappealable. If that happens, you can only reopen a dead claim if you can provide to the VA “new and material evidence.” This is a virtually impossible standard so please do everything in your power to avoid even having to get into this area in the first place! As a result, this bears repeating. Never ever miss a VA deadline!
- If you are trying to prove service connection for any of your VA disability claims, try to get “buddy statements” from fellow service members that were with you when your disability or problem first started. This is very helpful in order to support a claim.
- Finally, if you missed this part, never ever miss a VA deadline! The most helpful way to avoid missing a VA deadline is to have exact proof in the form of a certified mail receipt from the post office which says exactly what you sent to the VA along with a complete copy of what you sent!
I handle all types of VA cases for Veterans, from the initial submission of a Notice of Disagreement to a decision that a Veteran disagrees with, all the way through the appeal of a negative BVA (Board of Veterans Appeals) decision to the CAVC (Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims). Navigating Legal Issues for Military Veterans – Co-Author
These blog posts will answer many of the questions that Veterans have regarding the VA disability claim process.
Ron Sykstus is a Managing Partner of several of the Bond & Botes Law Offices throughout Alabama. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Arizona, Tucson, and a Juris Doctorate from the Northern Illinois University College of Law. Ron has served in numerous positions throughout the U.S. Army and now utilizes his expertise in the areas of VA issues, security clearances, military law, and bankruptcy to assist his clients when they need it most. Read his full bio here.