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Veterans & Military

Review the most common forms of veterans benefits, such as Service Connected Disability and VA Pension.
Overview

Guide Overview

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not legal advice and are not a substitute for the help of a lawyer.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers many benefits and services for veterans. This guide focuses on some of the most common forms of VA benefits: Service Connected Disability, VA Pension, and more.

The checklist portion of this guide is intended to give you a starting point in gathering information about your claim.

Common questions about Benefits for Veterans & Military Families

Service connected disability is a cash benefit for veterans with a disability that is related to their military service. The disability does not need to be so severe that it prevents the veteran from working.

The FAQ section of this guide will help you determine if you satisfy the definition of a "veteran"; if your disability is service connected; and how to apply for this benefit.

The Helpful Links section contains other resources to help you gather evidence for your claim and find more information on specific disabilities.

A service-connected disability is an injury or illness that occurred while you were on active duty. In some circumstances, it may be an injury or illness that you already had that was aggravated while you were on active duty. The injury or illness must happen in the line of duty.

Click here for more information on service-connected disability. 

Non-service connected disability pension is a needs-based program for veterans with wartime service who are permanently and totally disabled, or over age 65.  Non-service connected pension is also known as "VA pension" or "widower’s pension."

Click for more information about non-service connected disability pension.

VA Pension is a cash benefit paid to wartime veterans who are over age 65, totally disabled, in a nursing home, or receiving social security benefits. The FAQ section will help you determine if you served in a statutory period of war, and if you are financially eligible for VA Pension.

  • If your claim was previously denied, carefully review the VA denial letter. This letter may contain information on why your claim was denied.
  • Lack of evidence is one of the main reasons VA denies claims for benefits. Thus, you should gather relevant evidence that supports your claim for benefits. Such evidence (usually) includes, but is not limited to: 
    • Military records
      • Request using Form SF-180 – Check “Other” under Section II and request your “Official Military Personnel File” (OMPF).
      • For in-patient military medical records - Request your OMPF and check "Medical Records." You must include the name of the hospital, month (if known) and year of treatment.
    • Non-military medical records, such as VA medical records and private medical records (related to the injury and/or disease for which you seek compensation)
      • Contact VA or your medical provider to request them
    • Supporting witness statements
    • Your personal statement
  • When providing your supporting evidence, only include the pages with relevant information for your claim.

The Department of Veterans Affairs may pay a portion of a veteran’s service-connected disability compensation, or non-service-connected disability pension, directly to the veteran’s dependents. This practice is called "apportionment of veterans' benefits."

Click here for more information on apportionment of Veterans' Benefits to Dependents

Instructions & Forms

The sections below cover common scenarios people face when dealing with veterans' benefits issues. There is also a section on gathering records useful to your case.

Checklist Steps

  • Steps to Follow
    • First, determine your eligibility by visiting our page or VA’s SCD Eligibility page
    • If you qualify, gather and/or request records that support your disability claim. See “Gather Records: How-to” below. 
    • Apply for benefits by completing VA Form 21-526EZ
      • Include the records you gathered that support your disability claim. Only submit the pages that support your claim, highlighting the relevant information on the pages you submit.
  • Steps to Follow
    • Determine your eligibility by visiting our page or VA’s Pension Eligibility page.
    • Gather and/or request records that support your disability claim (See “Gather Records: How-to” below).
    • Gather proof of unreimbursed medical expenses.
    • Apply for benefits by completing VA Form 21P-527EZ.
  • Steps to Follow
    • If it has been less than a year since your last claim was denied and the first denial (called a “Statement of the Case”) is dated on or after February 19, 2019, you have three options for appeal:
    • If you wish to file a new appeal for a VA Statement of the Case dated before February 19, 2019, or it has been more than a year since your last claim was denied, you must submit new and relevant evidence with a Supplemental Claim, which will reopen the claim. 
      • Unfortunately, VA will not pay benefits back to the original application date. 
    • If you are continuing an appeal of a VA decision dated before February 19, 2019 and it has not been more than a year since your last claim was denied, you complete and return VA Form 9 (PDF) to the VA regional office within 60 days from the date on the Statement of the Case to continue your appeal. 
  • To support a claim for disability or pension benefits, you must submit relevant records. These (usually) include, but are not limited to:
    • Military records
      • Request using Form SF-180 – Check “Other” under Section II and request your “Official Military Personnel File.”
      • For in-patient military medical records - Request your OMPF and check "Medical Records." You must include the name of the hospital, month (if known) and year of treatment.
    • Non-military medical records, such as VA medical records and private medical records (related to the injury and/or disease for which you seek compensation)
      • Contact VA or your medical provider to request them.
    • Supporting witness statements
    • Your personal statement
  • When providing your supporting evidence, only include the pages with relevant information for your claim.

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