Personal experience, lack of direction, and frustration inspired me to write this article. My goal is to help at least one veteran avoid the headaches I encountered; my hope is to help many. If you have or believe you have a service-connected illness or disability, it is in your best interest to read on.
Navigating your way through the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can often be a very daunting task. Many current and former service members are unaware of what the VA offers to America’s Veterans. It is this veteran’s goal that this article will help at least one veteran find the help he/she needs. The information below will aid in getting the enrollment and disability claims processes started.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides a wide range of benefits for veterans, dependents of veterans, surviving spouse, children and parent(s) of deceased veterans. These benefits include disability compensation and pension, education and training, vocational rehabilitation and employment services, home loan guaranty, dependant and survivor benefits, medical treatment, life insurance and burial benefits. There is no time limit after separation to apply for these benefits.
The first step in obtaining benefits is by enrolling in the VA system. There are several ways to do this and is dependent on your current military status.
• The Pre-Discharge Program (PDP) is a joint VA and Department of Defense (DOD) program. Active duty service members have the opportunity to file claims for disability compensation up to 180 days prior to separation or retirement; this includes members of the National Guard and Reserve. Read more on PDP.
• The VONAPP (Veterans On Line Application) is the official VA web site for veterans to apply for benefits using the internet.
• Apply/Enroll at your local VA Hospital or regional VA Office; the Enrollment Office will help veterans fill out the required paperwork.
Upon successful enrollment, the VA will notify the veteran of his/her status and schedule an indoctrination seminar at the nearest facility. The seminar will brief the veteran on all available services and local procedures.
A valuable and often overlooked group of resources in the VA enrollment and compensation claims process are Veterans Service Organizations (VSO’s). Individually, VSO’s are more commonly recognized as the DAV, VFW, American Legion, etc. These organizations can answer questions, petition on behalf of the veteran for benefits and services they believe he/she is qualified to receive, and expedite pending claims that may be slowly processing. Another highly valuable resource is the State Veterans Affairs Office (SDVA). The SDVA is located within the VA, but is a service office provided by the veterans’ home state for its constituents.
My next article(s) on VA services will cover employment, training and education.