Overview of the Claims Process

Basic Eligibility: A person who served in the military and was discharged or separated under conditions other than dishonorable may qualify for VA benefits including disability compensation, pension, survivor’s pension, healthcare, employment assistance, and much, much more.

For a general overview of the various benefits available to qualifying veterans, see the VA’s Federal Benefits Guide.

The First Interview

In the majority of VA claims the burden of proof lies with the Veteran. The VA will consider almost any type of relevant evidence as these actions are administrative and “non-adversarial.” A detailed intake interview is vital to identifying sources for corroborating statements, documents, and/or possible claims the Veteran has not self-identified. Examples of intake questions and document checklists are located on that benefits individual resource page.

In addition to gathering the facts of the case, it is important to have the client sign two documents at the conclusion of the meeting: (1) VA Form 21-22a Appointment of Individual as Claimant’s Representative; and (2) Document Request Authorization. These documents are crucial to requesting records from the various sources where substantiating evidence may be located within the DoD and VA systems. Additional VA Forms can be found here.

Appeal Options

When the Veteran wishes to challenge a decision there are multiple options to appeal within the VA’s administrative process and through the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. The type of appeal is dependent on the issues identified during the interview and throughout development of the the Veteran’s claim.

Supplemental Claim Resources

Supplemental claims are filed using a VA Form 20-0995, Decision Review Request: Supplemental Claim. The VA will not consider the claim as complete unless the VBA 20-0995 is accompanied by or identifies potential new evidence to support the claim. Below you will find forms, sources, and examples to help you gather the evidence you may need to for a supplemental claim.

MyVA / eBenefits

MyVA and eBenefits are web-based systems where veterans can manage their claims, healthcare, and other VA benefits. Additionally, the Veteran has access to their historical claim documents and medical records.

Medical Records

Some medical records may accompany the delivery of the OMPF from the National Archives. However, many times the Veteran will need to obtain medical records from a civilian provider or a specific military treatment facility. Below you will find forms that may assist you in obtaining these records.

Official Military Personnel File (OMPF)

A Veteran’s Official Military Personnel File is a “complete” record of the Veteran’s military career held at the National Archives. This record can be requested via the National Archives website through the submission of a SF 180 and Document Request Authorization. The OMPF will most likely not have all documentation you may need to present the Veteran’s argument, however, the OMPF will act as a concrete starting point to telling the Veteran’s story through the evidence.

Higher-Level Review Request Resources

A higher-level review appeal is a de novo review of the claim by a more experienced agency of original jurisdiction adjudicator who did not participate in the prior claim determination. Generally, these reviews are conducted at the regional VA claims office and only consider evidence already contained in the claim file. The higher-level reviewer may find in one of four ways: (1) The denial of benefits was valid; (2) Award of benefits based on a difference of opinion; (3) Reversal or refinement based on a finding of clear and unmistakable error in the decision; or (4) If the reviewer believes the regional office did not fully comply with its duty to assist, they may return the claim for further development. Although no new evidence is allowed to be submitted with this appeal, written or oral argument may be presented on the Veteran’s behalf regarding any error committed by adjudicating source in its claim decision.

When determining if a higher-level review is in the Veteran’s best interest, the applicable statute in Title 38 of the CFR or USC is generally identified in the Claim Decision Letter sent to the veteran. Although a helpful starting point, the statute may not be helpful in identifying the exact violation being appealed. The VA Adjudication Procedures Manual provides the detailed requirements for eligibility, assistance, and the procedures for determining the compensation for each type of claim or issue. To request a Higher Level Review, submit VA Form 20-0996.

Appeals to the Board of Veteran Appeals

A Veteran may appeal to the BVA after – the initial claim determination; a supplemental claim decision; a higher-level review; or a regional decision denying a request for revision based on clear and unmistakable error. This appeal is decided by a Veterans Law Judge at the BVA and initiated by filing a VA Form 10182 Decision Review Request Board Appeal. When appealing directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals each issue on appeal takes on of three paths:

Digital Claim Submission

The VA Benefits Administration primarily communicates with Veterans and their representation through the U.S. Postal service. Letters sent to the Veteran identifies the office responsible for the contents of the letter, how to appeal, and the physical addresses of the appellate entity. However, manual submission is the least preferred method of delivery.

The VA currently offers three methods to digitally upload claims: (1) The Veteran can upload themselves via their VA account, (2) The VA Centralized Mail Portal (CMP), and (3) the VA QuickSubmit system. The VA CMP is a legacy system that will be phased out in the future, therefore CMP should only be used until attorney’s have gained access and are comfortable with the newer QuickSubmit system.

Appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims

The US Ct. App. Vet. Claims is the Federal Court with exclusive jurisdiction to provide judicial review of final decisions by the BVA. The court reviews administrative decisions which are adverse to the veteran-appellant’s claim of service-connected disabilities, survivor benefits, waiver of indebtedness, and most other benefits and entitlements offered by the VA.

Courts-Martial Transcript Request Example and Addresses

Office of the Clerk of Court
U.S. Army Legal Services Agency
9275 Gunston Road
Fort Belvoir, VA 22060
Fax: (730) 806-0124
E-mail: usarmy.pentagon.hqda-otjag.mbx.clerk-of-court-foia@mail.mil.

Air Force
1500 West Perimeter Rd., Suite 1130
Joint Base Andrews, MD 20762
Phone: (240) 612-4834

Office of the Judge Advocate General
1254 Charles Morris Street SE, Suite B-01
Washington Navy Yard, D.C. 20374-5124
E-mail: FOIAMILJUS@navy.mil

Coast Guard
ATTN: CG-0946
2100 Second St., SW
Washington, D.C. 20593
Phone: (202) 372-3726

Military Investigation Records Request Example and Address

U.S. Army Crime Records Center
Russel Knox Building
27130 Telegraph Road
Quantico, VA 22134-2253
Phone: (855) 306-0003
Fax: (571) 305-4151
E-mail: usarmy.usacidc-foia@mail.mil

Naval Criminal Investigative Service (Code 00JF)
ATTN: FOIA Officer
716 Sicard St. SE Suite 2000
Washington Navy Yard DC 20388-5380
Web: www.ncis.navy.mil

Air Force
ATTN: FOIA Section
27130 Telegraph Road
Quantico, VA 22134-2253
Fax: (310) 870-1116
E-Mail: afosi_hq_foia_request@ogn.af.mil

Coast Guard
Commandant CG-611
ATTN: FOIA Officer
2100 Second St., SW, STOP 7101
Washington D.C. 20593
Phone: (202) 372-2702

Service Branch FOIA Offices

U.S. Army Freedom of Information Office
Case Building, Suite 150
7701 Telegraph Road
Alexandria, VA 22315-3905
E-mail: usarmy.belvoir.hqda-oaa-ahs.mbx.rmda-foia@mail.mil

Air Force
Headquarters Air Force/AAII (FOIA)
1000 Air Force Pentagon
Washington, DC 20330-1000
Phone: (703) 693-2735/692-9981
E-mail: usaf.pentagon.saf-aa.mbx.haf-foia-workflow@mail.mil

Marine Corps
Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps
FOIA/PA Section (ARSF)
3000 Marine Corps Pentagon
Washington, DC 20350-3000
Phone: (703) 614-4008

Chief of Naval Operations
ATTN: FOIA Contact, Dept. of Navy
2000 Navy Pentagon
Washington DC 20350-2000
E-mail: donfoia-pa@navy.mil

Coast Guard
Commandant (CG-611)
ATTN: FOIA Officer
U.S. Coast Guard Stop 7710
2703 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE
Washington DC 20593-7710
E-mail: efoia@uscg.mil

If you find an error (substantive, procedural, or functional) please notify SALSA Veteran Program Staff Attorney Todd Tagami at toddt@sa-lsa-org.

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