Military, Veterans Veterans Benefits Programs, Claims & Appeals

  1. Men and women who serve in the country’s military are entitled to veteran’s benefits after they leave. The article will explain benefits programs available to veterans, the process to apply and to appeal if a claim is denied. As long as you didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge upon departure – whether you were in the army, navy, air force or marines, you are eligible for veterans benefits. The veterans benefits program is administrated by the “VA” or the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

    Veteran’s Benefit Programs

    The primary veteran’s benefits programs available to military veterans are:
    • Free or reduced cost medical care

      Veterans must fill out an application in order to participate in the VA health care system.
    • VA disability compensation

      Tax-free benefits paid if you are injured while on active duty.
    • VA education programs

      Typically these VA programs will provide significant assistance to attend college, receive other training to pursue specific jobs.
    • VA pension programs

      Benefits paid to veterans (i) with limited or no income (ii) with service of at least 90 days of active duty and one day during a wartime period, and (iii) over the age of 65 (under age 65 may receive benefits if permanently and totally disabled).

    Veterans Also Entitled to Other Federal Benefits

    Military veterans are not limited to VA benefits alone. A veteran who suffers from mental or physical impairments that leave them incapable of being able to find work (qualified as “substantial gainful employment”) may be able to claim at least two different types of government benefits. If the impairment is service related, the veteran may be eligible for Veteran Affairs disability compensation. If the impairment is not service related, the veteran may still apply for Social Security benefits, which are administrated by the SSA (Social Security Administration). Veterans may pursue other federal benefits and combine different programs, with some limitations. These benefits include:

    SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance)

    Social Security taxes paid by employees and employers.

    SSI (Supplemental Security Income)

    Federal income supplement usually provided to low income individuals and funded by general tax revenues.

    US Small Business Administration (SBA) programs

    Offers business courses and assistance with starting a small business.

    US Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs

    The USDA provides loans to those who operate or plan to operate or improve a farm.

    If you apply for and receive Social Security benefits, you don’t automatically lose your veteran’s benefits from the VA, even if they are similar. For example, you can receive disability and retirement benefits as well as survivor benefits from the Social Security program. However, each program can have very different rules and requirements with regard to making determinations of eligibility. One example of a significant difference between the programs is the definition of what constitutes a “disability”, which is much more stringent

    Making a Claim for Disability Benefits

    Veterans will have to complete the Veterans Application for Compensation (VA Form 21-526) in order to apply for benefits from the US VA Department. Veterans should be careful to follow the detailed instructions for applying for a veterans benefit. It is suggested that applicants be prepared to include relevant evidence such as military discharge papers, medical information and paperwork regarding your injuries and disability as well as documentation regarding a dependent family. It is possible to apply for VA disability benefits online using VONAPP, the Veterans Online Application. If you don’t wish to file online, you can file at your regional VA office. Make sure to keep copies of all your paperwork. It may take 4-6 months to receive a decision on your application from the VA.

    Making a Claim for Social Security Benefits

    Even if you are not eligible for VA disability benefits, you may be entitled to Social Security disability benefits if your impairment or disability was not service related. You can apply for SSDI or SSI payments through the SSA website or by visiting your local Social Security Administration office. You will have to allow the SSA to have access to your medical records and you will have to give detailed information of your disability. You might be asked to undergo some medical exams or tests but these tests will be at the expense of the SSA. If your earnings do not meet the criteria for SSDI payments, you could still be entitled to apply for SSI assistance. For more information about how to apply for SSI and SSDI, see information concerning Social Security Benefits - Eligibility and Compensation and the Social Security Benefits Application FAQ.

    Appealing VA Denial of Benefits

    If you receive a VA decision that denies you benefits, you will have one year from the date you're notified of the VA decision to appeal. Before filing an appeal with the Board of Veterans' Appeals, you are best served by writing a letter to your regional VA office, informing them about the decision and explaining carefully why you respectfully disagree. The VA office will review your claim and, with some good fortune, it is possible that the person reviewing your case might agree with you and help get your claim approved. If the VA office disagrees with your position, they will send you a reply that explains why they agree with the denial.

    In order to appeal the VA decision to the Board of Veterans' Appeals, you’ll need to fill out the VA Form 9 that should have been included with the denial letter. The Board of Veterans' Appeals is located in Washington, D.C. and can take a very long time – even several years – to make a decision on whether to reverse the denial. Even if you’re denied, it is possible that new and important evidence may have been discovered during the review period. If so, you can contact your regional VA office once again to request that they reopen the appeal for one more review. If you’re denied by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, you can also appeal to the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims within 120 days of the decision. The US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims only reviews evidence already submitted. It does not accept new evidence or hold trials.

    Getting Legal Advice For Veterans Benefits

    You may want to get some help from an experienced military attorney if you are having difficulty with a claim for veteran’s benefits and from a Social Security disabilities lawyer if you’re appealing a denial of SSDI or SSI benefits. While the application process may be straightforward, success with the appeals process is usually better with expert assistance.
    Legal Topics:
    Veterans Benefits

    Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler
    Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of, A. Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.


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