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Changes to The Veterans Affairs Claims Process

Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid LSC Funded

Information

The “effective date” of a claim for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Compensation or Pension runs from whichever is later: 1) the date the claim was received by the VA, or 2) the date that the claim “arose.” In the past, a veteran could ensure his/her earliest effective date by sending a letter to the VA explaining the benefits sought and asking for an application. The benefits would start from the month the letter, or “informal claim,” was received.

On March 24, 2015, the VA established a more formal process for filing claims. The main change was eliminating the informal claim.  Now the VA will only accept applications for benefits on a specific VA form for purposes of establishing an effective date. The forms are available on the VA’s website at http://www.va.gov/vaforms/default.asp.  This is important because veterans who do not follow the new procedure could lose several months of benefits. 

The following are the most common types of VA forms:

  • VA Form 21-526: Veteran’s Application for Compensation or Pension
    • For veterans who have never filed a claim for VA Compensation or Pension.
  • VA Form 21-526b: Veteran’s Supplemental Claim for Compensation
    • For veterans seeking to request an increased rating, entitlement to service connection for a new disability, or reopening a previously denied disability claim.
  • VA Form 21-526EZ: Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation
    • For veterans seeking to file for VA Compensation under the Fully Developed Claim (FDC) program. The FDC program is a streamlined process for claimants who already have all of the relevant evidence, including medical and personnel records, needed to support the claim. The claimant submits this evidence with the claim, which allows VA to process the claim more quickly.
  • VA Form 21-527EZ: Application for Pension
    • For veterans seeking to file for VA Pension under the FDC program.
  • VA Form 21-534: Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), Death Pension and Accrued Benefits
    • For a surviving spouse or child applying for service-connected death benefits.
  • VA Form 21-534EZ: Application for DIC, Death Pension, and/or Accrued Benefits
    • For a surviving spouse or child applying for service-connected death benefits under the FDC program.

If a veteran does not have all of the necessary information to file a claim, the veteran can start the claims process by completing an “Intent to File a Claim,” VA Form 21-0966.  If the veteran submits a formal claim within one year of the date the VA receives the Intent to File a Claim then the VA will consider the claim filed as of the date the Intent to File a Claim was received.

VA regulations also allow a veteran to start the process by calling 1-800-827-1000 and speaking with a benefits counselor.

A veteran can also preserve his/her earliest effective date by starting and saving a claim electronically through eBenefits. The veteran has one year from the date the electronic application is saved to submit it to the VA.

Veterans should talk with their county Veteran’s Affairs office or Iowa Legal Aid before filing a claim for VA benefits.

  • Iowa Legal Aid provides help to low-income Iowans. 
    • To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid:call 800-532-1275. 
    • Iowans age 60 and over, call 800-992-8161 or 
    • apply online at iowalegalaid.org

If Iowa Legal Aid cannot help, look for an attorney on “Find A Lawyer” on the Iowa State Bar Association website iowabar.org.   A private attorney there can talk with you for a fee of $25 for 30 minutes of legal advice.

*As you read this information, remember this article is not a substitute for legal advice. 
Last Review and Update: May 02, 2016
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