Veterans Disability Appeal FAQs

Prepare for the VA process with this list of frequently asked questions.

Appealing your VA claim can be demanding, but Allsup’s VA-accredited Claims Agents can help you break through the obstacles. Here are some frequently asked questions that will give you more information about VA disability benefits and the appeal process.

General Questions

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) manages two disability benefit plans that pay monthly income to qualified veterans:

    • Non-service connected pension (“pension”)
    • Service-connected disability compensation (“compensation”)

More than 90% of all monthly VA disability payments are for compensation or service-connected disabilities.

A non-service connected pension is commonly called “pension.” It is an income-based disability benefit that supports veterans who served in wartime. The qualifications are:

        • a) You served during a period of war, and
        • b) You are totally disabled or 65 years or older, and
        • c) You have low to zero monthly income and total assets

Your disability does not have to be related to your military service to receive this benefit. This benefit generally pays $1,000 a month.

A service-connected benefit or veterans disability compensation pays you for injuries or illness you experienced while in service. The qualifications are:

            • a) You served in the active U.S. military, naval or air services, and
            • b) You were discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable, and
            • c) You sustained an original service-connected injury or illness, specific war-time service-connected disability, or substantially aggravated an existing injury during your time served. (See examples.)

Your current condition must be one that:

                • a) Is supported by a physician’s diagnosis and/or opinion, and
                • b) You can prove it is due to an event or incident that happened while you were in the service. This may include a duty or medical report that reflects your injury.

Example of original service-connected injury or illness:
“Matt” voluntarily enlisted in the Army and was assigned to an airborne infantry unit that required combat training jumps. During one of these jumps, a gust of wind caught his parachute and he was dragged across rough terrain, hitting his head and suffering whiplash and head trauma. He later developed headaches with constant neck pain. He completed his enlistment and was honorably discharged. Matt continued to suffer headaches, memory loss and increased neck pain. As a civilian, his doctors diagnosed Matt with traumatic brain injury and degenerative arthritis in the neck. The doctors concluded his problems are related to his accident in service. Matt applies for benefits for these injuries and the VA grants his claim.

Example of specific war-time service-connected disability:
“Charles” was drafted by the Marine Corps in 1967. He was sent to Vietnam where he was a truck driver for a transportation unit and was honorably discharged after his tour. The U.S. military used the Agent Orange herbicide in Vietnam from 1962 to 1975 and assumes all Vietnam veterans were exposed to this chemical. Over the years, Charles developed type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer and ischemic heart disease – all health problems associated with Agent Orange exposure. He filed a claim with the VA, which granted him benefits for these war-time service-related disabilities based on his exposure to Agent Orange.

Example of substantially aggravating an existing injury during time served:
“Linda” broke her ankle while playing high school volleyball. Her injury healed and she later enlisted in the Navy as an intelligence analyst. During her entrance examination, the Navy doctor noted her previously broken ankle, but cleared the injury and said Linda was fit for duty. Linda served six years, but sprained her ankle four times during various activities. She was honorably discharged. Her ankle strength continued to weaken and her doctor diagnosed her with a chronic sprain. Her doctor believed the sprains during her Navy service permanently aggravated her previously broken ankle. Linda applied to the VA for compensation and was awarded based on a permanent aggravated injury.

There are a number of differences. For example:

                • With Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the Social Security Administration (SSA) requires that you be permanently disabled, unable to work for 12 months or more or have an illness expected to result in death.
                • In the veterans disability system, the VA rates a service-connected disability on a scale of seriousness, from 0 to 100%. If you receive benefits, the rating determines the amount of your benefit. For example, you could be considered 10%, 50% or 100% disabled.

First, if you meet the requirements, you deserve the benefits you earned while protecting your country. Your monthly benefits are based on a percentage rating level of disability. The VA uses a rating schedule that determines which disabilities you receive benefits for and the percentage to which they are disabling. The range for disability compensation is from 0% to 100%.

Veterans with a spouse or dependent children can expect to receive more. If a veteran has multiple disabilities with different ratings, those are combined into a single rating. The amount paid for each rating is set by law.

A higher disability rating means a larger increase in your benefits. Recent studies have shown that veterans who use a paid disability representative see their annual average benefits nearly double when compared to those who apply alone or seek help from Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs).

Some veterans with lower disability ratings can continue their military service, but they can’t receive military pay and VA disability payments at the same time. In these cases, VA disability payments are temporarily suspended during periods of military service.

There is no time limit for most initial VA disability claims. However, you should file a claim as soon as possible because the filing date determines when your benefits begin. Disability applications can be more difficult to process if you wait a long time because you must prove that your condition is due to military service. Applying right away will help ensure that you receive all the benefits for which you’re eligible.

They provide:

  • Regular financial support and monthly income
  • Increased access to VA healthcare and services between jobs and after retirement
  • Access to other VA benefits, such as:
    • Vocational rehabilitation training
    • VA-guaranteed home loans
    • Options for long-term care
    • Possible property tax exemption
    • Preference in government hiring
    • Special programs that support business development
  • Access to VA benefits for survivors

Filing a Claim

Our  VA-accredited Claims Agents only provide assistance during the VA appeal process; but we can help you get started with your disability compensation application. For valuable information about how to file your application for benefits, visit our web page.  You’ll also find information on how to gather the type of evidence and documentation you need to submit your claim.

If you’re denied benefits or don’t receive a fully favorable decision, our VA-accredited Claims Agents can help you file an appeal.

Why True Help?

Our VA-accredited Claims Agents will provide a free disability appeal review to determine if you’re eligible or have reason to appeal.

      • We understand how to review the details of each claim and are experienced in preparing a thorough and accurate appeal so the VA can quickly and efficiently review your case and make a satisfactory decision.
      • Our staff, many of whom are veterans themselves, understand the complex ins and outs of the VA system and the appeal process.
      • We can save you stress and help you avoid mistakes that could delay or deny your claim and affect your financial situation.

Knowledge and Experience

      • We specialize in disability. We’ve been helping people navigate complex government programs for more than 30 years and are the nation’s premier provider of SSDI representation and Medicare plan selection services.
      • Our VA-accredited Claims Agents have experience in working with a variety of disabilities and know how the VA process works.
      • We understand how to prepare your appeal in a timely and accurate manner, which can avoid needless delays, a lower disability rating or denial of benefits.

Guidance Throughout the Appeal Process

      • With True Help, you can expect caring service from a trained and certified VA-accredited Claims Agent who will assist you throughout the VA decision process.
      • You’ll regularly receive status updates about your claim and we’ll communicate with the VA on your behalf.
      • We also collect your medical records, correct any errors and develop written briefs to achieve a positive outcome.

High Satisfaction Rating

      • People who choose True Help for assistance consistently report significant satisfaction with the service we provide. In fact, 98% of our customers are satisfied with the disability service they received.

The VA disability program and the SSDI program are significantly different and are administered by two different federal agencies. Another True Help staff member will handle your SSDI claim, but you’ll have a team that will work together if you have dual claims and help you coordinate all your multiple disability benefits.


There is no cost unless we win your appeal or you receive higher benefits on appeal.

Our fee, which is monitored by the VA’s Office of General Counsel (OGC), is 20% of the retroactive dollar amount awarded.

Our fee is withheld by the VA from your retroactive benefit payment. This is the typical method used by the VA and VA-accredited Claims Agents.

The VA will grant you benefits and notify you by letter. It will then send you 80% of the retroactive award amount. The award letter will let you know how much (20%) is being withheld from your retro award to pay us. You and your VA-accredited Claims Agent have 60 days to contest the amount. After 60 days, the VA will release the 20% to us. We will bill you for any other costs and expenses at this time, if applicable.


A service-connected disability or compensation benefit is a cash benefit paid to veterans because of injuries or diseases that happened while on active duty, or were made worse by active military service. Benefits are also available to certain veterans disabled from VA healthcare.

If you disagree with the VA rating decision, you or your VA-accredited Claims Agent can file a written statement with the VA local regional office to appeal the decision. This statement is called a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). You must file your NOD within one year of the date your local regional office mailed you its original decision denying your claim.

VA benefit programs are administered at the local level by 58 regional offices (ROs). Because the ROs receive applications for benefits and make the initial decision to award or deny claims, each is referred to as “the agency of original jurisdiction.”

      • At least one RO is located in each state, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and Manila in the Philippines.
      • Larger states (CA, TX) have more than one RO.

After a VA local regional office receives your Notice of Disagreement (NOD), it will create a Statement of the Case (SOC). This is a detailed explanation of the evidence, laws and regulations used by the VA local regional office in deciding your claim. The SOC will be mailed to you and/or your VA-accredited Claims Agent along with a VA Form 9 (Substantive Appeal), from your VA local regional office.

The Board is the final decision-maker in the appeal process. It is located in Washington, D.C., and is comprised of veteran law judges and staff attorneys. A judge will be assigned to your case and will conduct the hearing, evaluate your claim(s) and issue a decision.

If the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA), or Board, does not allow or deny your claim, it will remand or send your claim back to the VA local regional office. A remand is not a final decision. This may happen if the Board finds that it doesn’t have enough information about your claim to make a decision. In this situation, the Board will either try to get more information itself or send your claim back to the VA local regional office so it can try and get the proper information.