07 Sep Navigating VA Claims and Appeals
When it comes to pursuing veteran’s benefits, there are several options available for appeals if your claim is initially denied. While the process of dealing with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or the Department of Defense (DOD) has become somewhat less cumbersome in recent years, it can still be time-consuming.
It’s worth noting that the VA has faced a backlog of over 500,000 pending claims and another 90,000 appeals since 2008, which can explain why it may take longer to process your claim.
On average, it takes approximately six months to process new claims for disability compensation and pensions through the VA. However, appeals can extend over several years.
The Two Primary Benefits Agencies
While there are other agencies involved in veteran’s benefits, the two main entities responsible for handling most benefit-related matters are the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DOD).
Other agencies include the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which manages the veterans’ preference program for government jobs, and the Small Business Administration, responsible for the veterans’ small business loan program.
THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS (VA)
The VA administers various benefit claims, including:
- VA Healthcare
- Disability Compensation
- GI Bill Education Program
- VA Pensions
- Veteran Survivor Benefits
The VA healthcare program serves approximately 5.3 million registered veterans, with over 3.7 million receiving disability compensation and pensions. Each year, the VA processes an average of 805,000 new claims for disability compensation or pensions.
Counselors are available at VA veteran’s centers to assist those with questions or in need of help. Typically, service members must contact the VA regional offices closest to their location for most claims, except for those related to medical care, which should be applied for through a VA medical center.
THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE (DOD) AND MILITARY SERVICES
Individuals with 20 years or more of military service can retire from the military and apply for benefits through the Department of Defense (DOD) or their respective military service branch. The five main military branches under the DOD are:
- Air Force
- Marine Corps
- Coast Guard
Each of these branches includes an active-duty section (full-time service) and a reserve section (part- time service). Additionally, the National Guard is associated with the Army and Air Force, categorized under individual states.
What the DOD covers
Those eligible, including family members, can obtain this card at the Pass & ID section of any military base. To obtain or renew an ID card, retirees can visit a military base other than their parent service base, simplifying the process.
The DOD provides benefits such as:
- Military retirement pay
- Shopping and travel benefits
- Military healthcare (TRICARE)
- Combat-related special compensation
- Assistance from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service
To address retiree payment concerns, veterans typically cannot visit a military base. Instead, they must contact the relevant branch of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS).
For inquiries related to military retired pay, individuals can reach DFAS at 800-321-1080 or visit their website at www.dfas.mil. The DFAS website offers myPay, a program enabling access to retiree pay accounts for making necessary changes.