The Veterans Benefit Administration has thousands of forms required for different pieces of claim processing. They require submission of specific forms to open a claim for benefits or when filing an appeal. Failing to submit your requests on the specific forms likely means that your claim will not be opened or the appeal will not be accepted. Here is a simplified guide to help make sure any request you file meets the required format:
The VA requires VA Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits, to open a claim for service connection. The VBA will accept an informal claim when the veteran submits an intent to file a claim by; 1) call the national VA number, at 1-800-827-1000; 2) files a request in eBenefits; or 3) Submits VA Form 21-0966. But that Intent to File is not actually a Claim for Benefits. An Intent to File is simply a placeholder which requires that the VA Form 21-526EZ be submitted within a year or the claim will not be adjudicated.
The VA requires all appeals to be filed on VA Form 21-0958, Notice of Disagreement. Failure to file this specific form within one year of the rating decision means the appeal will not be accepted. One misconception that often occurs in the appeal process, is that veteran files something called a Motion for Reconsideration. This is not technically an official appeal. While a veteran can file for reconsideration when the VA denies the claim again, the clock does not start over for the appeal deadline. Due to the length of time it typically takes for a Motion for Reconsideration to be decided by the VA, the appeal deadline has almost always passed. Remember: A veteran has one year from the date of the Rating to file VA Form 21-0958, Notice of Disagreement, if the form is not filed the decision becomes final.
The Board of Veteran’s Appeals
Appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals is a two-step process. Once the VA Form 21-0958 as outlined in the previous section is accepted that is only the first step. Second, a VA Form 9, Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals must be filed in response to the VA’s issuance Statement of Case. The deadline is 60 days from the date stamped on the cover page of the Statement of Case. If the form is not submitted, the denial becomes final.
The Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims
Appeal to the Court requires a Notice of Appeal to initiate an appeal of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals decision. This will move the appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The veteran has 120 days to submit the Notice of Appeal to the Court or the appeal will be become final. Note: It is difficult for a veteran to represent themselves at the Court as the evidentiary and procedural burden are high. There are many attorneys and non-profit organizations that can help veterans at this level. Do not hesitate to ask for help.
In addition to the above, the VA requires specific forms for specific types of claims.
VA Form 21-8940, Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability. A veteran may be entitled to unemployability benefits if they are unable to work as a result of their service connected disabilities. Although the form is not “technically” required, the Regional Office will likely deny the entitlement without the form having being submitted.
VA Form 21-4192, Request for Employment Information in Connection with a Claim for Disability Benefits, this form is generally sent to the employer directly from the Regional Office in claims for unemployability. However, we recommend the Veteran send the form directly to the employer for completion. The employer is often more likely to complete the requested form if the veteran requests it directly.
VA Form 21-0781, Statement in Support of Claim for PTSD, and VA Form 21-0781a, Statement in Support of Claim for Service Connection for PTSD secondary to Personal Assault, are used to report stressor events in claims for PTSD. These forms assist the Regional Office in finding evidence of the stressor. Of note, it is best to find your own evidence of stressor. Our office has been successful in many cases were the Regional Office denied the claim based on lack of verifiable stressor by providing evidence of the stressor. These can be newspaper articles detailing the event or Department of Defense records such as After Action Reports.
VA Form 21-4138, Statement in Support of Claim, can be used to provide statements from family members, fellow service members, veterans themselves.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, literally. I have outlined just a few of the forms that the VBA uses to process the claim for service connected benefits. Through the adjudication process the VBA will send letters requesting the forms be completed at different stages. Ensuring that the forms are completed in a timely fashion and entirely completed is of importance, as failing to submit your request on their proper form can be the difference between having your claim denied simply for lack of proper format.
VA forms can be searched here.