During your transition you have plenty of things to worry about – deciding on your next career, possibly moving to a new city, and searching for that canteen cup you haven’t seen since initial issue to turn back in. The last thing you should have to worry about is working with Veterans Affairs (VA) to file your disability claim. While you can work directly with the VA to submit your claim, there are organizations designed to assist you through the entire process, thus allowing you to split your focus among other aspects of your transition. These organizations, known as Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs), are Congressionally chartered to help you navigate the claims process from beginning to end.
That being said, the one piece of advice that I tell everyone I know transitioning from the military is to find a VSO to help you submit your claims. The reasons are simple: 1) your disability claim will be completed, filed, and then appealed, if necessary, by the VSO; 2) VSOs submit thousands of disability claims per year on behalf of veterans so they know what they are doing; 3) they allow you to focus on taking care of other important transitioning activities; and 4) it’s easy and free.
My experience with using a VSO to file my disability claim was very straightforward and literally required only one hour of my time. The representative assisted me in completing the required documents to ensure they were completed properly and then she physically walked my claim and medical records to the VA. The rep also provided me with her contact information in case I had any questions, needed assistance checking on the status of my claim, or if I ended up needing to appeal. Filing my disability claim through a VSO was one of the easiest things I did in transition and is well worth an hour of your time.
A few things to know before you begin your claim:
1) Request your medical records from your medical clinic at least 30 days in advance of your initial filing. The VSO will best be able to help you if you bring a copy of your medical records with you during your appointment. Provide the VSO a copy of your medical records and keep the original for yourself as medical clinics provide you with only one free copy.
2) Research what VSOs are located on your installation as you may find the VSO is co-located with other services or offices you need to visit during your transition.
3) Prior to your appointment, make a list of all of your injuries sustained while in service. If you fail to mention something you can amend your disability claim but that requires more paperwork and potentially a longer wait time for a decision from the VA.
4) The VSO is your advocate to the VA, so if you have any questions always feel free to reach out to them.
5) You can obtain a copy of the most recent VSO listing from the VA. Pay particular attention to Section II as these organizations are Congressionally chartered to assist you with your disability packets and other paperwork as well.
VSOs are great organizations designed to assist our veterans for the entirety of their lives. Using a VSO for disability claims is just one of the great services they provide at no cost to the veteran. I recommend researching the various VSOs and joining one or two as a way to stay connected to other veterans and staying in touch with the various initiatives they support to better the lives for all veterans.
GuideOn, Director of Business Development
Marc is a serial entrepreneur focused on social and veteran issues. He served in the active Army for over eight years as a DUSTOFF pilot prior to entering the Start Up world. He is now a member of the Army Reserves and serves on numerous municipal level boards. He is an avid reader and enjoys expanding his understanding of the world around us and ways to improve it. Marc earned degrees from West Point and The George Washington University. Please feel free to reach out to Marc at Marc@guide-on.com.