This is the first part of a two part series on evidence collection. Collecting evidence to support your VA disability claim can be a daunting task. There are a lot of factors to consider. This will not be an exhaustive list but it will get you moving in the right direction.
Before moving on to this step, let me remind you to first get a copy of your DD-214 for every period of service. You must first prove that you are a veteran according to VA regulations, then prove that you have a disability before the VA will issue a disability rating. The MOAA claims checklist will help you organize your other documents.
When it comes to filing a VA disability claim, I believe that you should provide all of the relevant information up front and leave little to interpretation. These tips will help accomplish that goal.
1. Medical Records: Recent retirees and separates should have received a CD transcript of their electronic medical records. If you still have access to paper files make a quality copy for your records. If you retired or separated many years ago, you may have contact the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) to get copies. Hold off on sending a records request to the NPRC if you plan to file your claim within six months as that could delay your claim. The VA is required to collect all federal medical records for you. Medical records from National Guard or Reserve periods of service are not considered federal so the VA is not required to collect them for you.
2. Known Medical Issues: Make a list of all injuries, accidents, diagnosis, surgeries, and prescribed medications from your years of service. Make sure all you have some kind of record for all events (i.e. medical records, incident reports, or unit logs). You should review your list with an accredited representative to determine what you can and what you cannot file a disability claim for.
3. Unresolved Medical Issues: If you are still on active duty and have medical issues that you may not have followed up on previously, make a doctor’s appointment to get those issues documented before you retire or separate. If you are retired or separated, you should an appointment with your doctor and take the appropriate Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ) for your doctor to fill out.
Examples: You were told to report for physical therapy due to a back injury but you never went. Or a doctor told you to come back if the pain continued but you did not go back even through the pain did not end.
4. Location: If you are filing a claim for a disability under the VA’s presumptive rules, you will need to prove the location and type of your exposure in addition to the injury or disease that it caused.
Example: You may not want to rely on a set of orders with an APO address to prove service in Vietnam. In this case, more specific information on your unit and your duties at the unit will help prove your case.
5. Unit information: If you had an injury during a major operation or evolution that your unit was involved it, you can use the unit history or website to document the circumstances surrounding the injury.
Check back tomorrow for Part Two.