Veterans Tip of the Week – It’s Your Claim, Own It!
I cannot stress enough, how important it is to stay engaged in your own VA disability claim process. VA disability claims are decided on two main data points, service connection and VA disability rating – per the VA disability rating schedule (https://www.benefits.va.gov/WARMS/bookc.asp). Pulling together a good claims file is only part of the process. Tracking and staying on top of the status of your claim, through E-Benefits, is also important. Here is my example of why.
I have a 20% service connected disability rating for my left knee. Over time my knee got worse and I required a total knee replacement. Based on the rating schedule, the minimum rating for a service connected total knee replacement is 30%. I submitted a “request for increase” through the VFW assisted VA claims process with the State VFW Service Officer in Boston (all this means is that I submitted a standard claim but went through the VFW for help). I included the claim form, a personal statement, the surgeon’s notes from the operation, and copies of the x-rays. I also gave them permission to access my medical records from the surgery with my Dr. Here’s a tip, the VA will not pay for medical records, so arrange for this to happen beforehand. I called my Dr.’s office and informed them the VA would be asking for my records, and I would pay any fees.
The VA confirmed they received the claim via letter, and it showed up in E-Benefits. And there it sat with the status of “Gathering of Evidence” for months. I them received a letter from the VA indicating they would be requesting documents from my Dr. So, I called my Dr.’s office to let them know to expect the VA to call. They informed me they had been in contact with the VA and had sent the documents in months earlier.
I then called the VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration through their number: 1 (800) 827-1000. You will need name, date of birth, SSN, Branch of Service, and you want to speak to an “Agent.” When the system says to tell them what you want, just say “Agent” and they will understand you need help and will connect you to a real person. My wait time was 5 minutes, but I was connected sooner.
While being polite and in a normal speaking voice (yelling and being rude will not help you here), I explained the issue with the Dr.’s office submitting the requested documents months ago, but no status change. The nice Lady put me on hold for a few seconds and apparently found my file. She could see the medical documents and when they were entered (just when the Dr.’s office said). She flagged the documents for the Evidence Intake Center and included a note that indicated the requested documents were in the system.
Key Takeaway! Without my active participation, this would likely have just sat there for who knows how long. Stay involved in the claims process and up to date on your claim status.
Update: While my status is still in the “Gathering of Evidence” stage, there was a change in my E-Benefits. There is now a due date associated with my claim. I did not know what this was, so I called the 800 number again. Another nice Lady explained this was an internal suspense date associated with the documents, and that the next review was schedule for that date, so anything else I wanted to submit was “due” by that date. She also confirmed my medical documents were still in there.
As always, please feel free to PM me if you have questions regarding you VA Benefits. If I don’t know the answer, we will find it together. #gogetrated
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