Filing a Claim with the VA


If a veteran believes that he or she has been harmed by anything in their military experience, they have the right to file a claim for treatment and compensation with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). A claim can be filed at any time and there is never a charge to file a claim.


How to File a Claim:
A claim can be filed at any VA office or medical center. Many cities also have storefront "Vet Centers" where a claim may be filed. It can also be done by mail, after requesting the appropriate forms from the VA. Most telephone directories will list the nearest Va facilities under "US Government"


Assistance of a Veterans Service Officer (VSO) may also be sought. All major veterans organizations (American Legion, VFW, DAV, etc) have service officers authorized by the VA to act in behalf of the veteran. In addition, many state and county government agencies have VSO's. Once again, there is never a charge for the assistance of the VSO. A caution: As with anything else, there are good VSO's and bad VSO's. The veteran must feel comfortable with his VSO, because this person will be handling the veteran's paperwork and (hopefully) advancing the claim. The veteran should be comfortable working with his VSO and feel that progress is being made. If the veteran feels that his claim is not being handled properly, he should not hesitate to find a different VSO to assist him.


Agent Orange Claims:
An Agent Orange claim is filed the same as any other claim; essentially it is a claim for injury during service in the military.


It is not necessary to discuss Agent Orange in the filing of the claim, and in fact, it can be detrimental. As the veteran, all you must do is describe, to the best of your ability, the injury or disease. This should be done in layman's terms; you are not a physician and should not attempt self-diagnosis. The VA will accept the claim, and schedule the veteran for a medical examination. At that time, the veteran should inform the physician that he was in Vietnam. A "Agent Orange " tag should then be affixed to the veterans file.


If you have seen a private physician, medical reports can and should be included with the claim. There is no value, however, in a physician's opinion that the disease was caused by Agent Orange. Quite simply put, most physicians are not qualified to make this assessment unless they are a researcher. Many veterans think that a letter from their doctor stating that the physician thinks this was caused by Agent Orange will help --- the truth is that it does not. Currently the VA offers compensation for only certain diseases as related to Agent Orange. This does not mean, however, that your condition may not be awarded. The VA may award for a condition as related to some other cause.


Regardless of potential disposition, if you have a health problem from military service: File the Claim!! Laws change, and a condition that may not be compensable today, may well be compensable tomorrow. The only way you can protect your rights is to file the claim. VA claims are usually awarded back to date of filing. If you do not file, you forfeit your rights.

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