Frequently Asked Questions
According to the VA, current processing time for claims is 104 days. https://www.va.gov/disability/after-you-file-claim/
Depending on the office (https://www.maine.gov/veterans/veterans-services-offices/locations/index.html) it could be two or more weeks. However, we do have the ability to do Skype or phone appointments within two weeks. To protect your date of claim, please stop by one of our seven offices to complete a VA Form 21-0966 (Intent to File) or call the VA directly at 800-827-1000 so potential benefits are not lost.
Meeting with a VSO will take roughly one hour. The VSO will discuss the claims process, assist in completing the necessary forms, review evidence provided, and advise what else may be required in support of the claim. Please bring a copy of the veterans DD Form 214, medical records including military service treatment records (if in your possession), private medical records (pertaining to the claimed conditions), dependency information including previous marital information for veteran and spouse as well as children’s names, DOBs, SSNs, and places of birth, and banking information including name of financial institution as well as account and routing number.
Please visit the "Benefits" section of our website for preliminary information on a variety of state and federal benefits available to veterans, service members, and their families. These include:
- Burial services
For more detailed information about the programs and services you may have access to, including how to apply for programs, please contact our Veteran Service Officers.
To apply for your Veterans ID Card, or to see if you are eligible for a Veteran ID Card, please visit https://www.va.gov/records/get-veteran-id-cards/
Please note that the ID cards will only be valid for proving military service. They cannot be used to access benefits through the VA, gain entry to military installations, or to receive other military or veterans' benefits.
The VA no longer offers community care to Veterans under the Veterans Choice Program (VCP). Choice Cards are not valid under the new community care program. The Veterans Choice Program ended on June 6, 2019.
As a result, VCP eligibility criteria will no longer be used to determine eligibility for community care beyond that date. Please note: Veterans may be eligible for community care under the “Grandfather” provision related to distance eligibility for VCP.
The new Veteran Community Care program provides Veterans with a greater choice over their health care, and allows VA to deliver world-class, seamless customer service either through a VA facility or community provider. There are a variety of improvements under the VA MISSION Act of 2018 that make community care work better for Veterans:
- Streamlined eligibility criteria. Veterans can easily tell if they are eligible for community care by reviewing the six eligibly criteria.
- Single community care program. With the sunset of VCP, there is one single community care program. With one program and a single set of rules and processes, there is less complexity and likelihood of errors and problems.
- Better customer service. VA has implemented redesigned a streamlined internal process, with improved education and communications resources for Veterans, Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) partners, and VA employees involved in community care operations.
- New urgent care benefit. The new urgent care benefit provides eligible Veterans with access to non-emergency care for certain conditions in the VA network of community providers. Veterans can go to any urgent care or walk-in care provider in VA’s network without prior authorization from VA.
The VA's primary focus is establishing entitlement to, and awarding of, benefits to veterans. Although veterans are entitled to add and change family members to their awards, this is a secondary priority for the VA compared to evaluating and rewarding claims that provide direct benefits to veterans. Recently, the VA has implemented new systems, such as eBenefits, which provides veterans with more immediate access to their claims, while also automating many VA processes.
Among the features of eBenefits is a new system that automates changes to a veteran's family member status. Automation of claims has improved the timeliness of claims but not all claims lend themselves to automation. For example, conflicts in the record such as overlapping marriage dates, will cause delays in processing an award, as will processes like documenting the adoption of a child, which requires a manual, paper-copy review by the VA.
Future enhancement to the system will allow VA more flexibility in how claims are automated. If your claim has been pending for quite a while, please speak with your Veterans Service Officer about resubmitting the claim electronically.
If a veteran is to receive additional pension benefits for a spouse, veteran and spouse must live together. If the veteran and their spouse do not live together, the veteran must be contributing to the spouse's support.
Spousal income is included as countable income for benefit calculation unless it is found that said income is not available to the veteran due to marital separation. When providing information for the veteran’s and/or spouse’s previous marriage, the veteran's statement providing the date (month, day, year) and place (city and state) of the divorce for both the veteran and spouse will be accepted as proof of the event on an initial application. However, once dependency has been established and/or a discrepancy has been discovered, documentation will be required.
Failure to report the loss of a dependent in a timely manner is one of the greatest sources of overpayments in VA benefits. Veterans are then required to pay back any overpayments, which - if not caught early – can lead to debts of thousands of dollars.
eBenefits is a joint U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Department of Defense (DoD) web portal that provides resources and self-service capabilities to veterans, service members, and their families to research, access and manage their VA and military benefits and personal information. eBenefits uses secure credentials to allow access to personal information and gives users the ability to perform numerous self-service functions, in addition to linking them to information about military and veteran benefits. Updates available through the portal are only as good, and as timely, as the information uploaded into the system.
By contrast, accredited VSO's have access to multiple VA databases and are able to reference a more comprehensive system that integrates a wide variety of VA information systems, including SHARE, MAP-D and the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS). These capabilities improve the processing of claims by streamlining the provision and updating of claim information among a variety of VA personnel and medical specialists. This allows for not only a more comprehensive view of a veteran's claim, but also allows the VSO to access the most current updates to a claim.
In order to give veterans more control over the disability claims process, the VA now offers veterans and their medical providers the opportunity to complete Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs). The DBQ process allows veterans to visit a private health care provider instead of a VA facility to complete their disability evaluation form.
You can now have your doctor fill out any of the more than 70 DBQs that are appropriate for your conditions and submit them to the VA. While some DBQs are specific to a single condition (for example: hypertension, arthritis, and prostate cancer), most forms can be used for several related conditions (heart conditions, kidney conditions, endocrine conditions).
Because the DBQs follow a check-the-box format, rather than a long narrative summary, the VA hopes that this format will simplify the documentation of medical conditions and reduce the time it takes to make a claims decision.
Please note that the VA does not reimburse providers' examination costs or travel costs for any DBQ-related exams. Veterans pursuing the DBQ option are responsible for any relevant co-pays or costs, including lab and testing fees.
Yes. Please meet with a Veteran Service Officer to discuss the best process for re-opening your claim. A VSO will work with you to determine how the VA rates your condition and if there are other impairments that you may wish to add to your claim. Mostly, you and your VSO will collaborate to assess how best to demonstrate that there has been a material decrease in your level of function since your last exam for the issue you originally claimed (such as knee injury).
Typically, you do not need to provide additional medical evidence if you are claiming that a previously rated issue has become worse. However, please note that any ratings received within the last five years are not protected. If you wish to re-open your claim, you may run the risk of decreasing your rating. A VSO can assist you with deciding the best course of action.
You may be eligible for coverage of service-incurred or service-aggravated disabilities unless you meet one of the statutory bars to benefits and/or were discharged under the following conditions:
- Sentence of a general court-martial
- Being a conscientious objector who refused to comply with orders
- Absence without official leave (AWOL) for a continuous period of 180 days or more
- Offense involving moral turpitude (e.g., felony conviction
Typically when an individual applies for VA health care benefits and has an "other than honorable" discharge, eligibility staff must register the individual and place him/her in a Pending Verification Status. However, emergency treatment may be provided based on a tentative determination of eligibility. In order to obtain any additional care or benefits, the individual must undergo a character of service evaluation by the VA, usually conducted at the local VA Regional Office (VARO). During the evaluation process, the VA will review all available evidence pertinent to the individual's case, including statements, and federal and private records related to the incident(s) resulting in the discharge. After review, you may eligible for medical care, but nearly all compensation, pension, education, and home loan benefits require an honorable discharge.
However, you may be eligible for benefits if you have a separate period of service which terminated under honorable conditions. For example, if you enlisted for three years, completed the three years and reenlisted for two more years, then received an other than honorable discharge during the second enlistment, VA benefits may be provided based on the first period of service.
The process of reopening a claim and/or appealing a claim is complex. Filing the correct form is essential for proper handling of your request. Please contact your VSO as soon as possible so they may assist you in the process.
Contact your Veteran Service Officer (VSO)/Representative as soon as possible. Delays in responding to a VA letter may result in potential delay or even denial of your claim.
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