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The Responsibility to Yourself in the VA Claim Process:

A Message from The Disability Advocate

Many veterans frequently complain about the VA's efforts to deny their claims, often shouting "deny, deny, deny." While there might be some truth to the inefficiencies within the VA system, the reality is that a significant portion of denied claims can be attributed to veterans’ own lack of effort and responsibility. Filing a claim and then going AWOL is a recipe for failure. Veterans often refuse to write detailed statements about the events that caused their conditions, dumping their claims on someone else without adequate evidence. An outdated statement from five years ago won't cut it; it doesn’t describe their current health or any changes over time. Updating documents and actively participating in the process is essential.


Veterans' refusal to seek continuous medical care severely hampers their claims. A diagnosis from a decade ago is insufficient without an established history of care. Many veterans think one appointment to coax their primary physician into linking their current condition to service is enough. This is a fundamental misunderstanding. Veterans should seek care throughout the entire claims process until it is complete. For instance, obtaining a PTSD diagnosis from a mental health doctor does not automatically mean it was caused by military service. The VA requires proof of service connection. Writing a detailed statement seems like a chore, but it is necessary. Some veterans file and then disappear, assuming their advocate can handle everything. This is self-sabotage. It’s the veteran’s responsibility to update their advocate with new evidence, medical treatments, and statements. Disconnecting from the process is entirely the veteran's fault.


Filing the Same Claim Repeatedly, Expecting Different Results, is Insanity.

Veterans resort to conspiracy theories or claims of prejudice when their repeated submissions are denied. This approach is counterproductive. Instead, veterans should get involved. An advocate cannot win the case alone. Hiring an advocate does not mean veterans get to sit back and relax. Non-participation leads to denial. If you don't care enough to be proactive, why should your advocate or the VA care? Whenever you contact your advocate, ensure you have new evidence or updates.


Calling just to ask for status updates without adding anything new to your claim is ineffective. Your advocate, attorney, or service organization cannot speed up your claim or guarantee service connection—they do not have control over the VA. Understanding this can help cut down on frustration. Patience and active participation are crucial. This process is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Veterans who want benefits for a lifetime for themselves and their families must be willing to participate fully in the process.

Submitting Documentation on Time

Timely submission of all required paperwork is essential to avoid unnecessary delays in your claim process. Ensure you provide any treatment records related to your claimed conditions, including reports or statements from doctors, hospitals, laboratories, and other medical facilities. These records should include the dates of treatment, findings, diagnoses, and relevant details. Incomplete or outdated records can lead to a lack of sufficient evidence to support your claim. If you need help obtaining records from private medical sources, complete and return the VA Form 21-4142 and VA Form 21-4142a to authorize the release of information. Keeping a personal copy of all documents submitted to the VA is also crucial for your records.

Harness the Power of Statements

When filing your VA disability claim, consider providing a detailed statement or "Statement in Support of Claim." This letter can provide critical evidence supporting the location, timing, and details of the events that caused your VA disability. Statements from you, your family members, or friends can fill in gaps that service or medical records may not cover. They can help paint a comprehensive picture of your condition before and after service, significantly impacting the evaluation of your claim. Clear and specific statements that chronicle the onset, progression, and current state of your condition are invaluable. These statements should be regularly updated to reflect any changes or worsening of your condition over time.

Seeking Treatment for Your Disabilities

Addressing your disabilities and seeking treatment is crucial for your well-being and plays a vital role in establishing the necessary medical evidence for your claim. If you believe your conditions were caused or aggravated during your service, it is important to discuss them with your doctor. You are your own best witness, and without your active participation, the VA may lack the necessary information to understand the connection between your service and your medical conditions. Regular medical appointments and treatments help document the ongoing impact of your disabilities. Building a history of consistent care demonstrates the seriousness and persistence of your condition, which is critical for your claim.

Attending Required Exams

The VA may schedule compensation and pension (C&P) exams throughout the claims process. These exams are crucial and mandatory. Failing to attend these exams may result in an automatic denial of your claim. Therefore, it is essential to prioritize and attend all scheduled exams to ensure accurate evaluations. These exams provide the VA with up-to-date information about your condition and its impact on your daily life. Always prepare for these exams by bringing all relevant medical records and being ready to discuss your condition thoroughly.


Keep the VA Updated on Your Address

It is important to inform the VA of any changes in your address, especially if you move within your state or the area covered by your Regional Office. Failing to update your address can lead to significant communication gaps, with veterans missing out on crucial notices and updates related to their claims. If you change regional offices, the transfer of your file may introduce delays. Keep the VA informed of your current contact information to ensure efficient communication. Promptly responding to any correspondence from the VA is also critical to keep your claim moving forward.

File All Claims Simultaneously

Our VA Disability Advocates strongly recommend applying for all benefits you wish to pursue simultaneously. While separate claims can be filed at different stages of the process, submitting them together can streamline the overall timeline. Avoid unnecessary delays by addressing all your claim needs at once. This approach ensures that the VA has a complete picture of your situation and can make more informed decisions. It also helps prevent piecemeal processing, which can lead to longer wait times and additional requests for information.


Avoid Letting Claims Close

Allowing a claim to close can have serious consequences, including losing potential back pay and a requirement to start the process again. After making a decision, you have one year to appeal your claim before it becomes permanent and final. Letting a claim close means restarting the process and providing new and material evidence. Stay vigilant, understand the VA's appeals deadlines, and seek assistance from an attorney if necessary to ensure timely submissions. Keeping your claim active ensures that you remain eligible for benefits and that your case continues to progress.


Apply for Benefits You Deserve

Don't hesitate to apply for the benefits you rightfully deserve. Many veterans hesitate due to concerns about appearing weak or unworthy. However, if you have served your country, received a discharge other than dishonorable, and are disabled, even to a small extent, as a result of your service, you are entitled to benefits. You are not alone in this process; over 900,000 claims are pending in the US. Remember, applying is the first step toward obtaining the benefits you deserve. Seeking help from VA representatives or veteran service organizations can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the application process.


Be Patient and Avoid Switching Advocates

Patience is crucial throughout the claim process. Switching advocates out of frustration with the timeline may not be the best solution. Most advocates possess the necessary knowledge and skills to help you win your claim. Before deciding, ensure you have fulfilled your responsibilities, such as writing statements and attending consistent medical appointments. Understand that claims can take time, and your active involvement is key to a successful outcome. Building a strong relationship with your advocate based on trust and communication can significantly enhance your chances of a favorable decision.

If You Are Not Satisfied with Your Representation

The proper way to address dissatisfaction is to contact your representative via phone or email and communicate your concerns directly. If you are unhappy with their services, do not let your representative waste time and resources on your claim. Most representatives will provide a path forward or assist in transitioning your case if necessary. If your account is paid in full, most representatives will give you a letter of release.


However, if you have entered into a contract and have an outstanding balance, your representative may not provide a letter of release until the balance is settled. Paying your balance is your responsibility, and revoking your representative's POA (VA Form 21-22a) does not release you from your financial obligation.

So, What Happens When You Bail on Your Representative and Your Contract?

If there are pending claims or appeals in process, you are still responsible for the work performed by the agent you left. This means that when you sign a new contract, you are now responsible for both contracts and the work performed by each representative. Be honest about your situation before you decide to switch.


The VA Disability Advocates Advice

Veterans must take an active role in their claims process to improve their chances of a favorable outcome. Regular communication, detailed documentation, continuous medical care, and compliance with VA requirements are essential. By understanding and fulfilling their responsibilities, veterans can significantly increase the likelihood of their claims being approved.

The VA Disability Advocates Main Office is Located in Las Vegas, NV. We Represent Veterans throughout the United States. 702-209-5722 

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