What Forms Do I Need to Apply for VA Disability?
VA Disability Forms: What You Need to Know
If you are getting ready to retire or separate from the United States military, chances are good you are already thinking about applying for VA compensation for service-connected medical issues. If you have already applied and received a decision, you may be wondering how you can increase your VA disability compensation.
There are three basic ways you can apply for compensation or increased compensation. One is to apply directly to the VA yourself (see below). Another is to get the assistance of a Veteran Service Organization (VSO) such as the DAV, VFW, or other VSOs who help vets apply for their benefits.
You can also apply for or get advice on applying for VA compensation with the help of a third-party lawyer who specializes in such claims. No matter which option you choose, both applications require specific forms, and you’ll need to create or maintain a VA.gov account to submit your VA forms, supporting evidence, and other documentation.
Creating or Using a VA.Gov Account to Start Your Claim
You are required to create or continue to use an account at VA.gov for your VA medical claims. If you have an existing account you can log in using one of the following:
- DS Logon
If you do not have a VA.gov account you can create one using Login.gov or IDme.
When you have created your account, the VA official site may be able to prefill some of your information on the claim form. You won’t be required to fill out the entire form in one sitting, you can save your progress and return to the form. Knowing this ahead of time is helpful since the information you include on the form may be lengthy.
You have a full year between the start of your paperwork to submit the claim. After one year, an unsubmitted application will be deleted.
When it is time to fill out the claim paperwork, be sure to remember the advice from the VA itself about providing supporting evidence from all treatment centers (military and civilian) that may have information about your conditions.
You may need to gather statements from friends and family members to support your claim. These statements should include observations about how your life has been affected by the injuries or medical conditions you are claiming. You may need to file additional forms if you have a dependent, need to apply for VA “aid and attendance” benefits, etc.
VA Forms for Disability Compensation
The basic form you will need to apply for VA Disability Compensation is VA Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits. You must sign in before starting this form as it cannot be saved otherwise. When you begin the form you are telling the VA you intend to file for disability compensation and the one-year countdown begins.
Filing for Increased Disability Compensation
If you already receive VA compensation but need to be reevaluated for an increased claim, there is a series of steps to take beginning with calling a Veteran Service Organization or the VA itself to discuss your claim. You can call the VA directly and ask to speak to a counselor about an increased disability claim.
Like your original VA application, you’ll need to provide specific medical evidence that an increased disability rating is warranted. Do you have medical evidence that shows a condition growing worse or not improving? Can you gather letters from family and friends to support your request for increased VA benefits? You will also need to submit both VA care records and private care documentation.
Act as Soon as You Know You Need to Apply
Filing for increased compensation means getting into a first-come, first-served line that could take longer than you anticipate to get through. That is why it can be important to act as soon as you know you need to apply for an increase in your VA disability rating. When you go to the VA official site and explore the link for applying for a VA benefits increase, that link takes you to the same form as you used to apply for your initial VA compensation claim.
If you aren’t sure about filling out the form in order to apply for a new review, call the Department of Veterans Affairs directly at 1-800-827-1000. The form itself does address those who are using it to have their original claim(s) reviewed:
“If VA previously granted service connection for your disability and you are seeking an increased evaluation of your service-connected disability, we need medical or lay evidence to show a worsening or increase in severity and the effect that worsening or increase has on your ability to work”.
That is one reason why the “friends and family letters” or “buddy letters” mentioned above are so important; the VA needs to have such information to approve or deny your request.
What to Know About Applying for VA Disability
Whether you are applying your initial claim or requesting that the VA take another look at your condition(s), there are special circumstances that may require you to submit additional paperwork to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
VA Specially Adapted Housing grant or a VA Special Home Adaptation Grant?
For example, are you applying for a VA Specially Adapted Housing grant? Or a VA Special Home Adaptation grant? You’ll need to submit VA Form 26-4555, Application in Acquiring Specially Adapted Housing or Special Home Adaptation Grant. Such grants are offered to veterans with qualifying service-connected injuries. Not all veterans qualify, ask a VA representative for assistance with these VA grants.
VA Auto Allowance
Do you need to apply for a VA auto allowance along with your disability claim? These allowances may provide funds to adapt a vehicle for qualifying disabilities. You will need to submit VA Form 21-4502, Application for Automobile or Other Conveyance and Adaptive Equipment
VA Claims Including PTSD
Does your VA claim include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? You will need VA Form 21-0781, Statement in Support of Claim for Service Connection for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
PTSD Claim “Based on Personal Assault”
If you are making a PTSD claim “based on personal assault” you will need VA Form 21-0781a, Statement in Support of Claim for Service Connection for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Secondary to Personal Assault.
VA Disability Compensation
The Department of Veterans Affairs reminds those applying for VA disability compensation to submit VA Form 21-4142, Authorization to Disclose Information to the Department of Veterans Affairs. This form allows the VA to pull your medical records from certain veteran treatment facilities where applicable.
If you are claiming dependents as part of your VA compensation package, be sure to fill out VA Form 21-686c, Application Request to Add and/or Remove Dependents. The Department of Veterans Affairs also requires VA Form 21-674, Request for Approval of School Attendance when claiming a school-age dependent between 18 and 23.
When filing your VA claim, if you are applying for Individual Unemployability, the VA requires VA Form 21-8940, Veteran’s Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability.
There are many forms that could apply depending on the nature of your claim, the nature of your service-connected medical issues, and the type of military service you performed.
It never hurts to contact the VA directly to ask questions about the process if you need help understanding any aspect of it. It doesn’t pay to be in a hurry or to call when you are pressed for time; VA call volumes are large and it’s best to plan your call for when you have enough time to wait out the “on hold” portion of the experience. If time is of the essence, it may be a good idea to get help from a Veteran Service Organization.
- What You Need to Know About Eligibility for VA Disability Benefits
- 5 Tips for Applying for VA Disability Benefits
- VA: Rare Cancers Added to Disability List
- Updates Proposed to the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities
About the author
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.