Wouldn’t it be nice: you get out of the military today and your VA disability compensation starts tomorrow? Actually, it can happen.
Veterans Affairs has a program that lets you submit claims, complete medical exams and send in your application and service treatment records before you’re discharged from the military. It’s called the Benefits Delivery at Discharge program, and it lets you start the disability compensation process up to six months before you are discharged from the military.
There are a few requirements to participate in the program, so my best advice is to find the VA Benefits Advisor on your base or post before you start anything. Chances are, they are either a vet or a military spouse, and they are there to help you access the benefits you have earned. The advisor can give you an overview of the benefits that are available as well as give you one-on-one help as you slug through the options available.
You have to have at least 90 days left on active duty because the VA needs at least three months to complete the medical exam process. The sweet spot is if you have between six months and 90 days left on active duty. Just be aware that 45 days from the date of submission, you’ll need to be available for the VA’s medical exam.
You do need to submit your service treatment records at the time the claim is submitted, so if you don’t think you have all the required documents, you might want to wait. An incomplete packet will only delay everything. And all parts of this application process will need to be complete by the time your release from the military.
There are, of course, some situations where you can’t use this program. For active duty with less than 90 days left, claims can be process with the standard VA claims process, Fully Developed Claims program or any other qualifying VA claims program. If you’re diagnosed with a medical condition after you submit the claim, or with less than 90 days on active duty left, that will be processed after your separation.
Other reasons you can’t use the Benefits Delivery at Discharge program include claims requiring a case manager, terminally ill service members, anyone who’s being treated in a military or VA facility while waiting for a discharge, and claims from pregnant service members can’t be process through this program. Claims that require a VA exam that must be done in a foreign country, except when the exam can be requested by the overseas Benefits Delivery at Discharge office in Landstuhl, Germany or Yongsan, Korea, can’t be processed through this program either.
If you are on a military installation, just contact the local Transition Assistance Program office to schedule appointments, attend VA benefits briefings and learn how to initiate your claim. The VA also has a Transition Assistance Program webpage that can give you a head start on what you need to do when getting out of the military.