Prepare To Wait For VA Benefits

March 12, 2013 | Kate Horrell

When servicemembers leave the military, they work with the Department of Veterans Administration (VA) to establish their eligibility for VA benefits.  These benefits include disability pension and healthcare.  Unfortunately, the VA is notorious for the delay in processing claims.  An article in today’s New York Times (page A22 of print copy) details the shocking length of delays, and the incredible volume of pending cases.

While I’d like to spend a little time being disappointed that the VA has let things get this bad, it is more productive to think of ways to ensure that the VA’s problems don’t mess with your life.  Servicemembers who have earned VA benefits and expect to use them immediately may find themselves in a bad situation when the inevitable holdup occurs.

What can you do to prepare?

Understand The System

The VA system of claims and evaluation is slow and confusing.  Take the time and energy to understand the process as much as possible.  We have some amazing resources here at Military.com, including blog posts from Terry Howell and Benjamin Krause.  The more you know, the more you can prevent delays and know how to push for faster action.

Have Savings

I know, I know.  I talk about emergency funds all the time.  Well guess what?  Leaving the military may be the single most important time to have an emergency fund.  It is an unpredictable time, and the most surprising things can happen.  Last military paychecks can be delayed up to 60 days.  First retirement checks don’t arrive as soon as you retire.  Jobs fall through.  It’s a challenging time.  The absolutely best way to make it less challenging is to have a large chunk of money set aside specifically to get you through the transition.

Collect and Clean Up Your Records

The VA claims process is based on paperwork, and lots of it.  Gather every single piece of paper that you have, and organize them.  I know the military makes it hard to get your medical records, but there are ways to make it happen.  Make multiple copies of everything.  Send a set to your parents, your child or your best friend.

VA benefits can be very generous, but they make you work for it.  You can expect to wait months, even years, for your claims to be decided, and you can also expect that you may have to appeal the decisions.  It can be overwhelming, and even disastrous, if you don’t know this is going to happen.  Get out there and know your benefits and how they work.  It will save you a lot of stress along the way.

Comments

  1. Danieljay says:

    when I first applied for my disability claim it took 6 months for a decision after all my physicals were done. but that was back in 2007.

  2. THOMAS NEWTON says:

    I WAS DIRECTED TO GO TO THE V.A. BEACUSE OF MY DIABETES, AGENT ORANGE. 12 YRS. AGO. IT WAS LIKE A TRIP TO THE BAKERY, SUPER EASY, & FAST. THEN, WHILE IN CIVILIAN COUNSELING, I WAS TOLD I HAD P.T.S.D. THAT TOOK LONGER , BUT I FINALLY GOT MY 100%SERVICE – CONNECTED BENEFITS ALONG WITH BACK PAY BECAUSE IT TOOK THEM OVER A YEAR TO DECIDE. EVER SINCE THEN, IT HAS ALL BEEN GOING DOWNHILL, & NOW IT IS PICKING UP SPEED.

  3. Dick M says:

    I filed for an Agent Orange claim in October of 2012 after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. I've had to medical exams since then and still haven't met with the VA. Fortunately, I have medical insurance that is paying my treatment costs. I figure the time it takes to process my claim will exceed my time in Vietnam. Life is good

  4. BOBBY ROSE says:

    I also am a Viet Nam Veteran that was exposed to Agent Orange. I have had diebetics for almost 30 years. When I found out that I could get disability from the VA I filed several years ago. I worked my way up to 70% disabality which I got May 2010. I appealed their decision immediately (May 2010) and still waiting. NO ANSWER. i continue to have other problems as well. I filed for nonemployable last summer which should, I understood get me 100% disabality almost immediately. Still waiting. I even at my own expense went to the center in St Petersburg, Fl November 20, 2012 to meet with my rep from Vietnam Veterans of America for a meeting with the VA. Guess what, my rep wasn’t available and the rep meet with a replacement alone, (I could not be in the meeting) and was told I would have my disabality by Christmas. March 15, 2013 still waiting.

  5. Mark says:

    Appeals are taking even longer cause congress moved some of those claim processors to work on new claims.

  6. Alex says:

    I filed for PTSD, in 1992 and just received it this month after being denied so many times and no back pay also when I filed for PTSD I file for sore joints,hypertension high blood pressure, arthris, gastrol stomach problems and heart problems and have been denied except PTSD, and the va is providing meds for the others sinc 1992 so the va in Des Moines only help those they want to help and others have to fight for everything the deserve like combat again also have had my gall bladder removed in march by direction of the va, have had strokes, so it's a worthless system and lazy fed employees sorry but that's how I see it

  7. Sodak says:

    Does the VA pay you disability back pay to the date your claim was filed?

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