VA Disability - Step 2: The VA Response
What happens next? Not much.
Now you've mailed off your VA Form 21-526 and you have the receipt proving delivery in hand. It's time to begin gathering the evidence you'll need to support your claim. See next section on "evidence."
Eventually, you will receive a letter from VA to notify you that they have received your application. The letter explains what VA needs in order to help grant your claim.
The letter may include forms for you to complete, such as medical releases. You should fill those out and send them to the VA office. You may also want to include copies of your medical files when you send the signed release. Do a simple cover letter that shows what you are sending and keep copies of everything. Send it by certified mail, return receipt requested.
VA also will attempt to get all the records relevant to your claimed medical conditions from the military, private hospitals or doctors, or any other place you have identified.
Over the next few weeks and months you will receive letters that will remind you to submit any and all evidence you can get. It's worth noting that the letters you'll receive will often be repetitive. They'll make you wonder if VA has received anything you've sent in already. Not to worry. The letters are computer generated.
Keep everything you receive from VA in case you run into a problem about whether or when something was or was not sent to you. Get into the habit of dating everything you send to and receive from VA and keeping it in a file, by date. Then you will have no trouble finding whatever information you may need in the future. If you've used certified mail and return receipts, save each one of the certified receipts and return receipts with the documents that they go with.
What if VA didn't get my application form?
If you do not receive anything back from VA within about two months after filing, you may want to send another copy of your claim. Include copies of the certified mail and return receipts for your original application. Explain in a cover letter that you sent in the form before but have not received any response. It is important to do this, since the original date on your application is the one VA will use for your benefit claim. This will usually prompt a response.
What is a compensation and pension exam?
The person who decides your claim (called a Rating Veterans Service Representative) may order a medical examination (the "compensation and pension exam"). The medical exam is free of charge.
Even if it's short notice or inconvenient for you, make every effort to get to the exam as soon as possible. If you just can't make it on the date scheduled, notify VA as soon as you can. If you don't show up for an exam or if you're extremely late for your exam, the VA may deny your claim.
We provide more information about the medical exam process in Step 4 below.
Why do I have to wait so long for anything to happen?
Now you wait. You may wait six months to a year before any progress is made. During this time it's important that all you do is wait. Don't call the VA to ask why it's taking so long. Don't write angry letters to your Senator or Congressman. Any action you take now, other than submitting supporting evidence, is likely to slow your claim down.
According to various sources the VA is a year or more behind in the processing of some 400,000 to 800,000 claims. Yours is in line with all of those claims. But if you have done your job well - with your application and evidence - your claim will eventually have its turn to be rated.
What if I don't have that long to live?
The only time I recommend that you ask VA to speed up your claim is if you are truly critically ill or your doctors do not believe you will outlive a long wait. In that case, VA may prioritize your claim for processing after you've notified them.
Send a brief letter via certified mail. Include a statement from a physician as to the seriousness of your condition.