How to help your VA claim while waiting on the VA
Currently, the VA has a national backlog of about 3 years for appeals. That means that from the time a Veteran files an appeal to when the VA makes a decision on that appeal the Veteran will have waited for at least 2.5 to 3 years. Many Veterans find the long appeals process discouraging, but there is so much that a Veteran can do to support their claim(s) while waiting on the VA to get to their appeal.
The number one most advantageous thing that a Veteran can do to support their VA claim for disability benefits is to have continuous medical treatment. Many of our Veterans tell us that there is no point in going to see their doctor because they can’t do anything to help their disability. Even if that is true, your doctor will create a medical record related to that appointment; each appointment creates a bread crumb trail of medical records for the VA to follow. The more medical records to support your VA claim the better! The VA will not take your word that you are disabled, and they are not mind-readers; they need proof that your disabilities have continuously affected you. Whether or not your doctor actually does anything to help your disabilities, having a record of your visit establishes: that you are actively seeking treatment, the severity of your disability over time, and it could surprise you and lead to some relief from your disabilities!
Creating a paper trail
In addition to having continuous medical treatment…Veterans, please do not minimize your symptoms! If your doctor or therapist asks you how you’re doing, don’t say “fine” unless you’re actually fine because the doctor will put that you are fine in your medical records. Instead, tell them “I’ve been feeling really down lately,” or “the pain from my back has been really bad lately, and has been making it hard to sleep.” Doctors are there to help you, and if you speak honestly with them, the VA will see how severe your disabilities are in your medical records. Again, your doctors and the VA cannot read your mind. So, the more open and honest you are about your disabilities, the better you support your VA claim for disability benefits.
Another thing Veterans can do to help support their VA claim is to keep a log of how your disabilities are affecting you. Again, the VA needs documentation to prove the severity of your disabilities. If you have residuals from bladder cancer, keep a log of how frequently you urinate throughout the day and night. If you have migraine headaches, write down when you get a migraine, what your symptoms are, and how long the migraine lasts. If you have a mental health disorder, write down your symptoms and how they affect your daily life. If you find yourself having to leave work early due to your disabilities, keep track of when you had to leave early and what triggered your need to leave. It can be really difficult to establish exactly how severe your disabilities are, so providing the VA with a log of how your disabilities effect you could make a difference in rating.
Can I speed up my VA claim?
Lastly, many of our Veterans ask about expediting their VA claim with the VA. We know that many, many Veterans are not in a good place financially. However, the VA is extremely strict with what cases they will expedite. The only time that the VA will expedite a claim is if the Veteran is homeless, is facing foreclosure (documentation is needed to prove this), the Veteran has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, or the Veteran is 75 years or older. If you do not fit into one of those categories, then your case will not be expedited. However, if you follow the above suggestions to help support your claim, then you increase your likelihood of a grant when the VA finally does get to your appeal.