I speak with many veterans every day, and one topic that comes up often is the uncertain length of time that a VA claim takes. It is one of the biggest frustrations that veterans deal with in their post-service years.
So I thought I’d take a few minutes to list the basic claim types and to explain an average VA timeline to help clear up some of the confusion.
A veteran can file a claim for VA Disability if the veteran has a condition that was incurred during active military duty or was aggravated by circumstances during active duty military.
In terms of asbestos claims, being exposed to asbestos alone is not enough. Instead, a veteran must suffer from an asbestos-related disease.
In general, asbestos-related diseases are:
- Asbestosis (interstitial pulmonary fibrosis)
- Lung cancer (if there is underlying asbestosis)
- And mesothelioma (asbestos cancer).
If a veteran has one of these three diseases or disease types, such as pleural mesothelioma, then a VA Disability claim is in order.
Once a veteran has decided to file a VA Disability claim, they begin the VA Disability application process.
Veterans can file:
- A formal claim (526 form)
- An informal claim, followed by a formal claim
- A “fully developed” claim (526EZ form).
Which claim type to use depends on a veteran’s circumstances and desires. I’ll dive into this topic in a future post. For now, I’ll cover the basic timeline for the average claim.
About a month after a VA claim for disability is submitted, the veteran should receive a letter from the VA. In the letter, the VA basically acknowledges receiving the claim and says it will process the claim and then will let the veteran know if more information is needed or if the veteran needs to see a VA-contracted doctor for one or more examinations.
These doctor appointments do not cost the veteran any money. What’s more, it is vital that the veteran keep these appointments because any cancellations will delay the VA claim significantly.
After receiving the letter, the veteran typically has to wait another five to eight months before the VA renders a decision.
However, if the claim is approved, the VA will pay back pay from the date the claim was filed. This means that there could be six to nine months of tax-free back pay coming, along with the regular monthly disability checks going forward.
So once veterans decide to file a VA claim for disability, they should aim to get their application in as soon as possible. One way to do that is to file an informal claim initially and then follow up by filing a formal claim (as listed above).
(We’ll go into a more in-depth discussion of each of the claim types in future blogs, so check back.)