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How to file for veterans’ disability compensation

A few clicks, a bit of information and some documentation will kick-start your journey to receiving disability payments


Veterans fill out VA paperwork.

Photo/Wikimedia Commons

By Rachel Engel, Police1 Contributor

Regardless of whether you spend one year in the military or see it through to a full retirement, any time spent in the armed forces increases the potential for injury, particularly in those troops who deploy to combat zones.

And, while the injury may not be enough to force a service member to leave the military or prevent them from entering the civilian job force , it could be severe enough to warrant disability compensation from the government once their military service has ended.

The journey to eventually receiving compensation for a service-connected disability is not quick or easy, but it doesn’t have to be confusing. Find out everything you need to know about filing for VA disability compensation, from what documents are required to how to speed up the process.

What injuries qualify for veteran disability compensation?

This is a tricky question to answer, because it really depends on a lot of factors. Your first stop is going to be a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital to be evaluated by a VA provider. The VA does provide a full list of covered ailments, if they are proven to be service-connected, on the USDVA website.

Who is eligible for VA disability compensation?

Veterans eligible for disability benefits must have a disability that stemmed from their time on active duty, or was aggravated by their time in the military, including injuries occurring inactive training. Disabilities can be physical, or mental, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Many veterans mistakenly believe they need to be incapable of working to receive disability payments, and this is not true. You can receive payments from the VA for a service-connected disability and still be fully capable of working a physical job in the civilian word.

For example, many veterans suffer from headaches that come and go due to Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), or back pain stemming from their physical duties as a service member. These types of injuries, while they don’t completely prevent you from working, are evidence of disabilities incurred due to your military service, and are eligible for disability compensation.

How do I apply for VA disability compensation?

There are three ways you can file for payments due to a service-related disability.

By creating an eBenefits account and filing online

By printing out the required forms and mailing them in

By calling the VA at 1-800-827-1000 and having them mail the forms to you

All three options will allow you to fill out the VA Form 21-526EZ and provide the needed documentation.

What information do I need to have on hand to apply for benefits?

The VA is going to need concrete dates and information related to your time in the military as well as information on your disability, so be sure to have this information handy when you begin to file a claim:

  • DD214 or equivalent
  • Doctor and hospital reports documenting your disability
  • Marriage and birth certificates for spouse and dependents

How long will it take for my claim application to be processed?

The process for approval or denial of disability compensation applications is long, and made more complicated by a backlog of applications. It can take several months to find out if your claim has been approved, or longer if the VA needs more information from you to determine a ruling on your claim.

Is there a way to expedite my VA disability claim?

For service members who are looking for any way to make the process quicker, they can file a Fully Developed Claim (FDC). With an FDC, service members and survivors are submitting information for their disability claim and certifying they have no more evidence to provide the VA in their decision process. To file an FDC, you must upload all of your qualification documents to the eBenefits site, or call the VA for more assistance.

You served your country, and that service cost you a part of your physical or mental well-being. Disability compensation is America’s way of saying we appreciate your sacrifice.

About the author
Rachel is a freelance writer, blogger and content creator, specializing in military and military family issues, pregnancy and parenting, and relationships. Her work has been featured on and in The Huffington Post,, Military Spouse magazine, Parenting magazine,, and many other websites and print publications. She has also contributed to local magazines in the area around the military installation where she lives with her active duty military husband and children.