26 Mar Fully Developed Claim Program for Veterans
One issue for veterans applying for disability benefits is the length of time the process takes. In many cases, it is important for the veteran to obtain those benefits as quickly as possible. As a result, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) offers an alternative method for applying for benefits.
What is the Program?
The Fully Developed Claim (FDC) program offers a way to obtain faster decisions on compensation, pension, and survivor benefit claims. In order to participate in the program, the veteran must obtain relevant service treatment and personnel records and provide them to the VA. The veteran provides all the evidence he or she has regarding the disability claim to the VA at one time. Additionally, the veteran certifies that there is no additional evidence. The result is the VA can make a decision much faster than under the traditional process. In fact, a 2012 VA press release stated that “FDC claims take an average of 110 days to decide compared to 254 days through the traditional claims method.”
Importantly, if the VA determines that there is additional evidence required to make the benefit determination, it will pull the application from the FDC program and review it under the traditional process. Therefore, if the veteran is mistaken about what evidence exists, it will not be detrimental to his or her application. Additionally, a veteran’s right to appeal the decision under the FDC program is the same as under the traditional disability benefits application procedure.
A veteran may file a FDC for disability for the following reasons:
- An injury, disability, or condition believed to have occurred or been aggravated by the veteran’s military service; or
- A condition caused or aggravated by an existing service-related condition.
The veteran will need to provide their medical records to the VA. Additionally, though the VA will search for a veteran’s DD-214 and service medical records, it will expedite the process if the veteran already has access to them and can submit them. A veteran may also wish to submit “buddy statements,” particularly if there is no notation in the veteran’s service record describing the disability. The statements are letters from friends or people the veteran served with that describe the facts of the disability claim.
Veterans may apply online at eBenefits.va.gov. Alternatively, the application can be initiated by filling out VA Form 21-526EZ and taking it to a regional office. A veteran applying has one year to complete the application after beginning the FDC. If the veteran’s claim is approved, he or she will receive payment beginning from the date of the initial FDC application.
VA Disability Benefits
If you have been injured as a result of your service to the country and would like help in applying for benefits through the VA, you should speak to an attorney at the Klok Law Firm LLC. We have extensive experience in assisting veterans to obtain VA disability benefits and would like to put that experience to work for you. If you have any questions, contact us today.