Multiple options are available for you to appeal if your claim for veteran’s benefits is denied. Though dealing with the VA or DOD is becoming increasingly less laborious than in past years, navigating claims with these organizations can still prove time-consuming. In fact, the VA had a backlog of over 500,000 claims pending and another 90,000 appeals pending since 2008, which may speak to why it might take you longer to process your claim.
Approximately six months is the average new-claim processing duration for those seeking disability compensation and pensions through the VA, whereas appeals could take years.
The Two Main Benefits Agencies
Though other agencies exist, there are two agencies that predominately handle most of the issues concerning veteran’s benefits: the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DOD).
Other agencies include the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), in charge of the veterans’ preference program for government jobs, and the Small Business Administration, in charge of the veterans’ small business loan program. Check out Chapter 12 for more information on these alternative agencies.
The Department of Veteran’s Affairs
Since its inception in 1930, the VA has expanded with an annual budget of approximately $86 billion and employees 230,000 people, operating 1,357 facilities such as regional offices, vet centers, medical centers, and outpatient clinics across the country.
Some benefit claims administered by the VA include:
- VA healthcare, as explained in Chapter 4
- Disability compensation, as explained in Chapter 6
- GI Bill education program, as explained in Chapter 10
- VA Pensions, as explained in Chapter 6
- Veteran survivor benefits, as explained in Chapter 8
The VA healthcare program touts around 5.3 million registered veterans while more than 3.7 million veterans get disability compensation and pensions. Every year the VA handle a norm of 805,000 new claims for disability compensation or pensions.
Counselors are accessible at VA veteran’s centers and able to assist those with questions or in need of help. Service members must generally contact the VA regional offices closest in proximity to where they live, excluding those applying to medical care. Appendix B displays a complete list of VA regional office and vet centers.
Apply through a VE medical center (Appendix C complies a list of medical center locations) in order to receive VA medical care.
The Department of Defense and military services
With 20 years or more of military service, individuals can retire from the military and apply for benefits with the Department of Defense (DOD) or their individual military service branch. There are five military branches under the DOD:
- Air Force
- Marine Corps
- Coast Guard
The branches listed each have an active-duty section (full-time service) and a reserve section (part-time service). There is also the National Guard with the Army and Air Force. The National Guard is categorized with the parent branch and under the individual state.
What the DOD covers
See Chapter 15 for a guide to military retiree benefits, for which a military retired Identification card is required. Those applicable—including family members—can obtain this card at the Pass & ID section of any military base. To receive an ID card, or renew one, retirees can visit a military base other than their parent service base and have their request taken care of, making this process simpler.
The DOD covers benefits such as:
- Military retirement pay (detailed in Chapter 7)
- Shopping and travel benefits (detailed in Chapter 14 and 15)
- Military healthcare, or Tricare (detailed in Chapter 5)
- Combat-related special compensation (detailed in Chapter 6)
Getting help from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service
In order to conclude retiree payment concerns, veterans can’t visit a military base. Instead, they are responsible to contact the relevant branch of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS).
For any questions you have about military retired pay, the DFAS is available at 800-321-1080. Or you could visit their website at www.dfas.mil. At the DFAS website, you can use myPay, a program that allows access to retiree pay accounts where you can make changes if needed.