Filing A Claim

If you are filing a service-connected disability claim and you were discharged from the military less than one year ago, the VA will more than likely presume your disabilities were caused or aggravated by your military service as long as there is documentation in your service medical record and it did not exist prior to entry onto active duty. If it was more than a year, you will have to prove your claimed disability was caused or aggravated by your military service. Things that can help prove this include, but are not limited to:

  • Documented treatment for injury or illness in your service medical record for non-presumptive conditions.
  • A history of medical documentation from a VA or civilian healthcare provider after you were discharged from the military.
  • Statements from people you were stationed within the military that witnessed the accident that caused your service-connected disability or people who were aware of your disability. For example, a best friend who knew you had chronic low back pain that you rarely sought treatment for. These are referred to as "buddy statements."
  • A letter from your doctor stating your disability was "at least as likely as not" or "more than likely" related to your military service. This letter must state the doctor's reasons and the basis for his/her opinion.

Here is a sample of an independent medical opinion.

It's strongly recommended you utilize your County Veterans Service Officer to assist you with filing your claim. In order to make the claim process go more smoothly, you must be able to provide the Veterans Service Officer with pertinent information about the disability or disabilities you're claiming. If you don't have the following information when you arrive for your appointment, it may have to be rescheduled:

  • Disability/injury: This is the medical disability you are claiming.
  • Began/diagnosed: This is the date the disability began or you were first injured or diagnosed. You need to provide at least the month and year to the best of your ability.
  • When treated: This is the date or dates (month and year) you received treatment for your disability.
  • Medical facility: This is the medical facility where you were treated.
  • Address: This is the address of the medical facility. We can also Google the address as long as you know the name of the facility.

If you do not know the dates of treatment (month and year) or the name of a medical facility, you cannot use it for your claim. The federal VA must have this information in order to get the medical records. If you're not sure of the date but you know you were treated by a certain medical facility sometime in 2005 (for example), you can inform the VA you were treated between January-December 2005. This will ensure that no matter what month in 2005 you received treatment, the federal VA will be able to get the records.

The federal VA will not pay for medical records. If the VA requests medical records and the medical facility will not release them without payment, it is your responsibility to pay the fee and obtain the records. If you do not/cannot pay the fee, the records will not be used as evidence for your claim.