Veterans Disability FAQs

 
 
GENERAL
 

Veterans Disability help from Allsup

1. What are veterans or VA disability benefits?  
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) manages two disability benefit plans that pay monthly income to qualified veterans:
  • Non-service connected pension ("pension")
  • Service-connected disability compensation ("compensation")
More than 90 percent of all monthly VA disability payments are for compensation or service-connected disabilities.
 
2. What is a non-service or pension-related benefit?
A non-service connected pension is commonly called "pension." It is an income-based disability benefit that supports veterans who served in wartime. The qualifications are:
 
a) You served during a period of war, and
b) You are totally disabled or 65 years or older, and
c) You have low to zero monthly income and total assets
 
Your disability does not have to be related to your military service to receive this benefit. This benefit generally pays $1,000 a month.  
 
3. What is a service-connected disability or compensation benefit?
A service-connected benefit or veterans disability compensation pays you for injuries or illness you experienced while in service. Allsup's VA-accredited Claims Agents mostly handle compensation appeals. The qualifications are:
 
a) You served in the active U.S. military, naval or air services, and
b) You were discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable, and
c) You sustained an original service-connected injury or illness, specific war-time service-connected disability, or substantially aggravated an existing injury during your time served. (See examples.)

Your current condition must be one that:
a) Is supported by a physician's diagnosis and/or opinion, and
b) You can prove it is due to an event or incident that happened while you were in the service. This may include a duty or medical report that reflects your injury.
 
Example of original service-connected injury or illness:
"Matt" voluntarily enlisted in the Army and was assigned to an airborne infantry unit that required combat training jumps. During one of these jumps, a gust of wind caught his parachute and he was dragged across rough terrain, hitting his head and suffering whiplash and head trauma. He later developed headaches with constant neck pain. He completed his enlistment and was honorably discharged. Matt continued to suffer headaches, memory loss and increased neck pain. As a civilian, his doctors diagnosed Matt with traumatic brain injury and degenerative arthritis in the neck. The doctors concluded his problems are related to his accident in service. Matt applies for benefits for these injuries and the VA grants his claim.
 
Example of specific war-time service-connected disability:
"Charles" was drafted by the Marine Corps in 1967. He was sent to Vietnam where he was a truck driver for a transportation unit and was honorably discharged after his tour. The U.S. military used the Agent Orange herbicide in Vietnam from 1962 to 1975 and assumes all Vietnam veterans were exposed to this chemical. Over the years, Charles developed type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer and ischemic heart disease - all health problems associated with Agent Orange exposure. He filed a claim with the VA, which granted him benefits for these war-time service-related disabilities based on his exposure to Agent Orange.
 
Example of substantially aggravating an existing injury during time served:
"Linda" broke her ankle while playing high school volleyball. Her injury healed and she later enlisted in the Navy as an intelligence analyst. During her entrance examination, the Navy doctor noted her previously broken ankle, but cleared the injury and said Linda was fit for duty. Linda served six years, but sprained her ankle four times during various activities. She was honorably discharged. Her ankle strength continued to weaken and her doctor diagnosed her with a chronic sprain. Her doctor believed the sprains during her Navy service permanently aggravated her previously broken ankle. Linda applied to the VA for compensation and was awarded based on a permanent aggravated injury.  
 
4. How are VA disability benefits different from Social Security disability benefits?
There are a number of differences. For example:
  • With Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the Social Security Administration (SSA) requires that you be permanently disabled, unable to work for 12 months or more or have an illness expected to result in death.
  • In the veterans disability system, the VA rates a service-connected disability on a scale of seriousness, from 0 to 100 percent. If you receive benefits, the rating determines the amount of your benefit. For example, you could be considered 10 percent, 50 percent or 100 percent disabled.
5. Can I receive both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and VA disability benefits?
Yes, disabled veterans who are unable to work due to permanent disability can collect both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and VA benefits at the same time. Allsup can help you coordinate multiple disability benefits.
 
6. How are my VA disability benefit payments determined?
First, if you meet the requirements, you deserve the benefits you earned while protecting your country. Your monthly benefits are based on a percentage rating level of disability. The VA uses a rating schedule that determines which disabilities you receive benefits for and the percentage to which they are disabling. The range for disability compensation is from 0 percent to 100 percent.
 
Percentage Rating Level of Disability = Monthly Benefits
(Veteran Alone with No Dependents)
 
10% = $129                                        60% = $1,026
20% = $255                                        70% = $1,293
30% = $395                                        80% = $1,503
40% = $569                                        90% = $1,689
50% = $810                                        100% = $2,816
 
Veterans with a spouse or dependent children can expect to receive more. If a veteran has multiple disabilities with different ratings, those are combined into a single rating. The amount paid for each rating is set by law.
 
A higher disability rating means a larger increase in your benefits. Recent studies have shown that veterans who use a paid disability representative see their annual average benefits nearly double when compared to those who apply alone or seek help from Veterans Service Organizations (VSO).
 
7. Can I work and still receive VA disability benefits?
Yes, you can. However, those who receive a high rating - 100 percent, for example - could encounter issues by working because they are considered "unemployable." This means if your level of disability is rated at 100 percent, the VA may consider you unable to work and may lower your benefit rating.
 
Veterans who continue to work are not eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
 
8. Can I continue my military service and still receive VA disability benefits?
Some veterans with lower disability ratings can continue their military service, but they can't receive military pay and VA disability payments at the same time. In these cases, VA disability payments are temporarily suspended during periods of military service.
 
9. How soon should I apply for a service-connected disability?
There is no time limit for most initial VA disability claims. However, you should file a claim as soon as possible because the filing date determines when your benefits begin. Disability applications can be more difficult to process if you wait a long time because you must prove that your condition is due to military service. Applying right away will help ensure that you receive all the benefits for which you're eligible.
 
10. How does applying for VA disability benefits help me and my family?
They provide:
  • Regular financial support and monthly income
  • Increased access to VA healthcare and services between jobs and after retirement
  • Access to other VA benefits, such as:
    • Vocational rehabilitation training
    • VA-guaranteed home loans
    • Options for long-term care
    • Possible property tax exemption
    • Preference in government hiring
    • Special programs that support business development
     
  • Access to VA benefits for survivors
 
FILING A CLAIM
 
1. Can Allsup help me when I first apply for VA disability benefits?
Allsup's VA-accredited Claims Agents only provide assistance during the VA appeal process; but we can help you get started with your disability compensation application. Visit our website for valuable information about filing an application for benefits. You'll also find information on how to gather the type of evidence and documentation you need to submit your claim.
 
If you're denied benefits or don't receive a fully favorable decision, Allsup's VA-accredited Claims Agents can help you file an appeal.

2
. Why was my application denied?
The VA website (http://www.va.gov) reports that 75 percent of all first-time applications for VA benefits are denied. Initial applications are often denied because they are incomplete and do not provide the necessary documentation. Allsup's VA-accredited Claims Agents can successfully help you during the appeal process.
 
 
APPEALING A CLAIM
 
1. What is an appeal?
There are several levels of appeal in the veterans disability system. An appeal is a request for:
  • A Decision Review Officer (DRO) at the VA local regional office to review an initial decision, or
  • The Board of Veterans' Appeals (BVA) to review a VA local regional office decision on your claim.
When you apply for VA disability, your VA local regional office makes a decision indicating your initial rating. You should appeal if you're denied benefits or believe your percentage rating level of disability is too low. Allsup's VA-accredited Claims Agents will help you file an appeal.
 
2. How do I file an appeal?
There are two options. An Allsup VA-accredited Claims Agent will file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) on your behalf, if:
  • The VA has denied you benefits for a disability that began during your time in service, or
  • You disagree with the percentage rating decision you received from the VA.
Having a paid VA-accredited Claims Agent such as Allsup can significantly improve your chances for a successful appeal.
 
3. What types of claims can I file or appeal at the initial level?
 
Types of Claims a Veteran Can File or Appeal at the Initial Level
Service-connected disability
First time applying for the condition
Reopen with new and material evidence
Applied for condition in the past -- attempting to resolve; must submit new and material evidence
Reopen or revise previous  claim based on clear and unmistakable error
Applied for condition in the past; claims the previous decision was legally in error
Increase on existing service-connected disability
Have current benefits; seeking an increase in severity
Total disability due to unemployability (TDIU)
Unemployable due to service-connected condition(s)
 
You can also file an appeal if the VA issued a rating decision (initial decision) that reduced the percentage rating of your present condition. This can occur if the VA decides your condition has improved.
 
4. Can I request a personal hearing?
Yes, you can request an in-person hearing during your appeal. An in-person meeting is between you, your Allsup VA-accredited Claims Agent, and the person from the VA who will decide your case.
 
There are two types of in-person hearings:
  • A hearing with a Decision Review Officer (DRO) at your local regional office, or
  • A hearing with a member of the Board of Veterans' Appeals (BVA).
5. How long is the process after I file a claim?
There is a significant backlog in the veterans disability system, so receiving veterans disability is usually a very long process. On average, it takes about one year for your application to be reviewed and for you to receive a rating decision and be approved for benefits. (See chart below.)
 
If you file an appeal in the year following a denial of benefits, it takes an average of eight to 12 months to receive another decision. If you appeal that decision, it could take over another two years before you receive a benefits decision. You may be able to reduce your wait for the benefits you deserve if you have help from one of Allsup's VA-accredited Claims Agents.
 
Approximate Timeline for Filing Appeals
Initial application review
One year to receive a decision or rating level
Filing an appeal following a denial of benefits
Eight to 12 months to receive another decision
Second appeal
Over two years (approx. 825 days) before receiving a benefits decision
 
The process takes even longer if you wait to file your claim after you leave active duty.
 
 
WHY ALLSUP?
 
1. How can Allsup help determine if I'm eligible for benefits?
Allsup's VA-accredited Claims Agents will provide a free disability appeal review to determine if you're eligible or have reason to appeal.
  • We understand how to review the details of each claim and are experienced in preparing a thorough and accurate appeal so the VA can quickly and efficiently review your case and make a satisfactory decision.
  • Our staff, many of whom are veterans themselves, understand the complex ins and outs of the VA system and the appeal process.
  • We can save you stress and help you avoid mistakes that could delay or deny your claim and affect your financial situation.
2.What are the advantages of the AllsupVeterans Disability Appeal ServicesSM?
Knowledge and Experience
  • Allsup specializes in disability. We've been helping people navigate complex government programs for nearly 30 years and are the nation's premier provider of SSDI representation and Medicare plan selection services.
  • Our VA-accredited Claims Agents are experienced in working with a variety of disabilities and know how the VA process works.
  • We understand how to prepare your appeal in a timely and accurate manner, which can avoid needless delays, a lower disability rating or denial of benefits.
Guidance Throughout the Appeal Process
  • With Allsup, you can expect caring service from a trained and certified VA-accredited Claims Agent who will assist you throughout the VA decision process.
  • You'll regularly receive status updates about your claim and we'll communicate with the VA on your behalf.
  • We also collect your medical records, correct any errors and develop written briefs to achieve a positive outcome.
High Satisfaction Rating
  • People who choose Allsup for assistance consistently report significant satisfaction with the service we provide. In fact, 98 percent of Allsup customers are satisfied with the disability service they received.
3. Will the same Allsup VA-accredited Claims Agent handle both my VA disability claim and my Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claim?
The VA disability program and the SSDI program are significantly different and are administered by two different federal agencies. Another Allsup staff member will handle your SSDI claim, but your Allsup team will work together if you have dual claims and help you coordinate all your multiple disability benefits.
 
 
FEES
 
1. What is Allsup's fee to use its Veterans Disability Appeal Service?
There is no cost unless we win your appeal or you receive higher benefits on appeal.
 
Allsup's fee, which is monitored by the VA's Office of General Counsel (OGC), is 20 percent of the retroactive dollar amount awarded. There may be additional non-fee expenses, such as fees charged to us by your doctors for medical records. However, these additional costs and expenses will be waived if Allsup also assists you for SSDI benefits.

2. How does Allsup receive my fee?
Allsup's fee is withheld by the VA from your retroactive benefit payment. This is the typical method used by the VA and VA-accredited Claims Agents.
 
The VA will grant you benefits and notify you by letter. It will then send you 80 percent of the retroactive award amount. The award letter will let you know how much (20 percent) is being withheld from your retro award to pay Allsup. You and your VA-accredited Claims Agent have 60 days to contest the amount. After 60 days, the VA will release the 20 percent to Allsup. Allsup will bill you for any other costs and expenses at this time, if applicable.
 
Here are some examples of likely fees:
 
Example 1:
You are not currently rated and granted a 60% rating with a 36-month past due award.
Your award would be approximately $36,936. The fee would be $7,387.20
(60% rating = $1,026 x 36 mos. = $36,936)
 
Example 2:
You are currently rated 60% and awarded 100% with a 36-month past due award.
Your award would be approximately $64,440. The fee would be $12,888.
(100% rating = $2,816 - 60% rating = $1,026 = $1,790 x 36 mos. = $64,440)
 
Example 3:
You are not currently rated and granted 100% with a 36-month past due award.
Your award would be approximately $101,376. The fee would be $20,275.20.
(100% rating = $2,816 x 36 mos. = $101,376)
 
 
DEFINITIONS

1. What does "service-connected" disability mean?
A service-connected disability or compensation benefit is a cash benefit paid to veterans because of injuries or diseases that happened while on active duty, or were made worse by active military service. Benefits are also available to certain veterans disabled from VA healthcare.
 
2. What is a Notice of Disagreement (NOD)?
If you disagree with the VA rating decision, you or your Allsup VA-accredited Claims Agent can file a written statement with the VA local regional office to appeal the decision. This statement is called a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). You must file your NOD within one year of the date your local regional office mailed you its original decision denying your claim.
 
3. What is a Decision Review Officer (DRO)?
A Decision Review Officer is the optional, second decision-maker who can reconsider an initial decision. This individual is a senior-level claims representative at the VA local regional office who can conduct a personal hearing and is not bound by the initial decision's determination.  
 
4. Where are VA local regional offices (ROs)?
VA benefit programs are administered at the local level by 58 regional offices (ROs). Because the ROs receive applications for benefits and make the initial decision to award or deny claims, each is referred to as "the agency of original jurisdiction."
  • At least one RO is located in each state, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and Manila in the Philippines.
  • Larger states (CA, TX) have more than one RO.
Note: Illinois claims are administered through the Chicago regional office and Missouri claims are administered through the St. Louis regional office.
 
5. What is a Statement of the Case (SOC)?
After a VA local regional office receives your Notice of Disagreement (NOD), it will create a Statement of the Case (SOC). This is a detailed explanation of the evidence, laws and regulations used by the VA local regional office in deciding your claim. The SOC will be mailed to you and/or your Allsup VA-accredited Claims Agent along with a VA Form 9 (Substantive Appeal), from your VA local regional office.
 
6. What is a VA Form 9?
  • A VA Form 9 is used in the last step of the appeal process. You and/or your Allsup VA-accredited Claims Agent will receive this form along with your Statement of the Case (SOC). It must be completed and returned to your VA local regional office stating the benefits you want, identifying any mistakes found in the SOC, and expressing your desire to appeal the claim with the Board of Veterans' Appeals (BVA) in Washington, D.C.
  • This form also allows you to request a personal hearing with a Board of Veterans' Appeals (BVA) member.
  • Your VA local regional office must receive your VA Form 9 within:
    • 60 days of the date that your Statement of the Case (SOC) was mailed, or
    • One year of the date that the VA local regional office mailed you the original decision denying your claim, whichever is later.
     
7. What is the Board of Veterans' Appeals (BVA), or Board?
The Board is the final decision-maker in the appeal process. It is located in Washington, D.C., and is comprised of veteran law judges and staff attorneys. A judge will be assigned to your case and will conduct the hearing, evaluate your claim(s) and issue a decision.
 
8. What is a remand?
If the Board of Veterans' Appeals (BVA), or Board, does not allow or deny your claim, it will remand your claim back to the VA local regional office. A remand is not a final decision. This may happen if the Board finds that it doesn't have enough information about your claim to make a decision. In that situation, the Board will either try to get more information itself or send your claim back to the VA local regional office so it can try and get that information.
 
If the BVA does remand your claim back to the VA local regional office to correct any mistakes, it takes an average of 427 days for the VA local regional office to process a new decision.