They ask because they are worried that it has been too many years since they were discharged.
They ask because they do not want to take benefits away from veterans who they believe are more deserving.
They ask because they’re still working and aren’t yet ‘disabled’.
Or they ask because they have been incorrectly informed that they are not eligible for one reason or another.
My answer is always the same. If you are having medical problems (either physical or psychological, or both) that you believe are related to, or began during, your active service, and you were honorably discharged, then you should file sooner than later.
It does not matter how many years it has been since you were discharged from service. There is no time limit on filing claims. Even if you were discharged 30 years ago, you can still file a claim. Most veterans do not file claims for several years and wait until their ability to work or function on a daily basis has become affected.
It does not matter if you didn’t complain about it during service or neglected to see a doctor after service. Although it can make the process a little more challenging, it is not a deal breaker.
It does not matter if you are still able to work, and do not consider yourself to be disabled. VA disability benefits are paid on a percentage basis. Unlike Social Security benefits, you do not have to be totally disabled to be eligible. In fact, you can be awarded service-connected benefits for a condition that does not cause significant symptoms or which is only considered to be 10 percent disabling under the VA disability rating criteria.
You will not be taking benefits away from other deserving veterans like yourself. Remember, you served this country just like every other veteran. You fulfilled your end of the bargain when you risked your life for our freedom. In return, the government promised to have your back if you were injured or you incurred a disability of some kind. It doesn’t matter how severe the injury was, or how bad the problem is now. If it happened during service, and it’s still causing you problems, you are entitled to benefits.
And, in fact, the sooner you file the better. As many of you are aware, the VA system is monumentally backlogged. This is a situation that has garnered a lot of attention in recent months. But, it’s a situation that has existed for years. There was a backlog when I first started representing veterans 14 years ago. The only difference now is that it’s worse.
You should file now, because of the backlog. Because it takes so long (frequently years) for a claim to be processed and for the often unavoidable appeal process to run its course, waiting until you are no longer able to work is not a good idea. Establishing that you suffer from a condition that is connected to service is simply the first hurdle. The sooner this is established, the better, because making sure you receive the appropriate disability rating is the next step. And this too can take a very long time to get right.
So, if you are having problems that you believe are related to your military service, should you file a claim for benefits? Yes. You should. As soon as possible.
And you don’t need an attorney to do this. You can file on-line at the VA’s website. Or you can fill out an application form (VA Form 21-526) and send it to the VA Regional Office in your state.
However, because the application process can often be overwhelming, then we would be more than happy to help you without any obligation whatsoever. Call us or email us and we’ll get you started.