Starting a VA Claim in Delaware
Getting started with a VA disability claim can begin from any location in the world, regardless of whether you served in that location. You can start a claim in Delaware without having served in the state, or apply elsewhere if you did serve there.
You can apply directly online through the VA, or get help from a VSO (Veterans Service Organization) that is accredited to help you through the process. To get started, you need to complete VA Form 21-526EZ (https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-526EZ-ARE.pdf) or apply online through the VA eBenefits portal. If you want the VA to collect medical evidence on your behalf, you must also complete VA Forms 21-4142 and 21-4142a. Additional forms may be required if you are filing a claim for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or for Total Disability based upon Individual Unemployability (TDIU). The forms must be signed and dated, packaged with any evidence you wish for the VA to consider, and either mailed to the VA Evidence Intake Center in Janesville, Wisconsin, or faxed to the VA at the number listed on the form.
Initial claims generally take several months to process, although they can be expedited for certain reasons, including terminal illness, Veteran age over 75, homelessness, or financial hardship. Knowing your rights early can help you get things processed faster.
It is a good idea to put in an initial claim as soon as possible to establish an early effective date. Once set, the effective date will not change regardless of how long it takes to fully settle a claim, which may take several years depending on the individual claims. The importance of the effective date is that the Veteran is entitled to back pay at the monthly rate they would be entitled to reaching from the final decision date all the way back to the effective date.
It is important to keep in mind that the effective date can be lost if you don’t maintain appeals for your claims. For instance, if you have 90 days to file a VAF-9 but miss the deadline, you may be forced to reopen your claim resulting in a new effective date. This is one reason it is so important to appeal decisions thoroughly, to keep the effective date in place and receive all the compensation for their disabilities that they earned. See below for additional information about appealing VA decisions in Delaware.
Each individual disability claim has its own effective date based on when it was first claimed, so an early effective date for a claim based on knee pain will usually not apply to an initial claim for PTSD submitted years later.