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What are Big Mistakes for Vets to Avoid When Applying for Benefits?

November 16, 2023 • | Curran Estate & Elder Law, PLLC
As veterans try to get the full extent of their earned benefits as quickly as possible, there are a few key mistakes to avoid and some resources can make a world of difference.

Since President Biden signed the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act in August 2022, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has already received over 100,000 new disability compensation claims. Kiplinger’s article, “5 Mistakes Veterans Most Often Make When Filing for Disability Benefits,” says that, with more veterans entering the system daily, they must know how to navigate the filing process and avoid the common errors that veterans make with disability benefits.

Mistake #1: Waiting Too Long to File. When injured during service, a member’s first impulse may be to try to get through it; but, even if they can grit their teeth at first, the injury or exposure may worsen with age, especially if left untreated. According to Allsup’s VA Disability Benefits Survey, the second largest group of veterans to file for benefits (29%) submit claims 10 or more years after separating. However, the VA approval process doesn’t happen immediately. On average, it takes the VA 127 days to process a disability claim, and this timeline can quickly expand when complications and appeals are added to the equation. Filing claims now helps veterans obtain ready access to all services and benefits before their condition becomes worse.

Mistake #2: Having an Incomplete Diagnosis or Treatment History. Veterans know their health history and conditions. However, their medical records may be unclear or incomplete if a doctor hasn't diagnosed them. If a veteran has seen civilian doctors for treatment, the medical history that the VA needs to make an accurate disability rating assessment may be piecemeal.

Mistake #3: Failing to Show a Clear Connection. A lack of a clear connection between the health condition and a service-related injury or exposure is a common issue. To get adequate benefits, veterans must have a complete account of the circumstances surrounding their injury or exposure. This connection is even more important after the landmark PACT Act, since this allows for more service-connected illness claims, such as respiratory illnesses, cancer and radiation-related illnesses for veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, or other toxic substances.

Mistake #4: Neglecting to File for Priority Review for Appeals. The VA offers an expedited appeals review process for veterans in need to help them receive their earned benefits faster. Veterans who are 75+ automatically have their appeals submitted for Advanced on Docket status. However, all veterans can ask for priority review if they suffer from a serious illness, are in financial distress, or have other sufficient cause for an expeditious appeal review.

Mistake #5: Not Claiming Unemployability as a Result of the Disability. If a veteran’s service-connected disability impairs their ability to work, they may qualify for Individual Unemployability (IU). This makes them eligible for additional compensation, insurance and VA disability benefits. However, research shows that almost half of veterans don’t understand their disability benefits and, therefore, miss out on the resources they deserve. IU recognizes that even without a 100 percent disability rating, veterans may suffer chronic symptoms that severely impact their employability. Veterans can file this claim without impacting their standing VA disability benefits, which may give them a more substantial support system than they would otherwise receive.

Avoiding these mistakes allows veterans to manage their health with their service-earned benefits.

Reference: Kiplinger (Dec. 4, 2022) “5 Mistakes Veterans Most Often Make When Filing for Disability Benefits”

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