6 of the Most Common (and important) VA Forms that Veterans Get Wrong

As a Veteran filing for VA disability benefits, you need to prepare for a lot of paperwork. Depending on the type of disability, the VA rating and compensation you are seeking, as well as your family status, you will have to file numerous VA forms.

There are hundreds of VA forms in circulation nowadays. These forms address a wide range of needs and requirements for Veterans. Each serves a specific purpose, making sure each Veteran gets the exact VA disability benefits they are entitled to.

However, there are several forms that you are most likely to come across when building your VA disability benefits claim. And since those forms are the most common, they raise lots of questions. Also, like many “universal instruments,” they are often misunderstood.

Helping Veterans and their families make informed decisions and take full control of their cases is our prime mission here at VCU. While people often assume that this endless maze of bureaucracy was developed only to confuse people and prevent them from getting their compensation,  it was built to put things in order and make sure that no detail that can establish justice is overlooked in the process.

We are here for you to help you figure out this process and benefit from the system.

So, today let’s speak about:

  • The 6 most common forms you are likely to come across when filing for our VA disability benefits
  • Mistakes that Veterans tend to make in them and the consequences of these mistakes
  • How to make sure that you get each VA form right and save a great deal of time, effort, and money claiming your VA disability benefits

Why Do Veterans Get VA Forms Wrong?

There are lots of reasons why a Veteran may get certain VA forms wrong or make mistakes filling them:

  • Underestimation of Importance
    Sometimes when Veterans file for a very specific type of VA disability, they may undervalue the importance of the “basic” forms like the VA Form 21-526EZ, considering it a mere formality
  • Lack of Clarity and Understanding
    The bureaucratic language is not the most user-friendly one, to say the least. Unfortunately, sometimes when Veterans don’t understand clearly which information is required, they make assumptions rather than seek qualified advice
  • Emotional Approach
    When filling out VA forms you will probably have to recount very personal and often traumatic experiences and memories from your military service. Unfortunately, stress always makes it hard to focus on the subject and requirements of each form. That is why having an impartial professional by your side is always a good idea
  • Medical Complexity
    Forms like VA Form 21-4142 or VA Form 21-2680 require you to provide detailed medical information, including diagnoses, treatments, and medications. Collecting all this information can be pretty challenging, especially if you are suffering from a complex service-related condition or file for secondary conditions. Supervision and assistance of an independent medical professional is invaluable in this case.

These are only some examples of why and how Veterans get VA forms wrong and often make mistakes filling them. However, no matter why you might have made a mistake, the result will probably be the same, your claim will be denied, the process may be delayed or you will receive an incorrect rating.

That said, let’s go over the 6 most common VA forms you risk getting wrong and how to avoid it.

FORM #1: VA Form 21-526EZ 

Application for VA Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits

What’s it for:
This form kickstarts the process no matter what kind of VA benefits you are seeking. That is why it is vital to fill it out carefully and correctly. Since it is probably the most used VA form, it is usually the most problematic one.

Common Mistakes:

Here are some of the most common mistakes Veterans make filling out the VA Form 21-526EZ:

  • Incomplete Information
    You need to make sure to include all the required information and evidence. This also includes your medical history, service records, and buddy letters.
  • Incorrect Information
    Just one mistake in a date, period, geographical location, or any number can lead to significant processing delays or even denial. Double-check every number and letter you mention in the form.
  • Submitting Irrelevant Documents
    Sometimes Veterans go to another extreme and submit too much paperwork. On the one hand, it leads to delays in processing your claim. But at the same time, there is a risk that the VA authorities will overlook some crucial piece of evidence and you receive an incorrect VA disability rate
  • Misunderstanding Eligibility
    You need to fully understand your eligibility for VA disability benefits before submitting the form. The main idea is that you are entitled to VA disability benefits only if your condition is current. In other words, no matter how many injuries you might have had during your service unless you have a current diagnosis and a nexus statement that links your condition and those injuries, there is no point in filling out the Form 21-526EZ at all since you are not considered eligible for VA disability benefits.

Pro Tips:

Understanding your claim’s processing is an important thing that will help you shorten the waiting period, avoid mistakes, and increase your chances for success.

The VA Form 21-526EZ has 2 processing options:

  1. Standard Claim Process
    As the title states, this is the standard procedure, during which the VA may request additional evidence and documentation supporting your case multiple times. As a result, the whole process will take time. But on the bright side, you may be sure that your case is processed and analyzed thoroughly, no evidence is missing and you receive a proper rate in the end.
  2. Fully Developed Claim Program (FDC program)
    This is a perfect option for those who are sure that they are submitting all the relevant information and evidence and the VA will not need any additional documentation. FDC program allows you to save a great deal of time since it is a much quicker process. However, if the VA decides that some information is missing, you will be automatically moved to the Standard Claim Process.

    No matter how you choose to submit your VA Form 21-526EZ or which processing option you prefer, it is always best to consult professionals before starting the whole process. They will help you understand your eligibility, collect all the necessary evidence, and process all the paperwork. This will not only minimize the processing time but increase your chances of receiving a fair VA disability rate.

FORM #2: VA Form 21-4138

Statement in Support of Claim

What’s it for:

The sole purpose of the VA Form 21-4138 is to provide a personal statement, a short 3-5 paragraph letter that will highlight how the traumatizing events during the military service and your service-connected disability take their toll on your life.

Common Mistakes:

The biggest mistake Veterans often make regarding this form is ignoring it. The thing is, VA Form 21-4138 is not mandatory when you file for VA disability benefits. Therefore, many people think that there is enough paperwork surrounding their case already, and wasting time on another letter, which is not even required, is simply unnecessary.

However, we strongly recommend Veterans take advantage of this opportunity to support their case and add a solid piece of evidence that can help the VA understand the service connection of a disability, and the actual severity of the condition. Not to mention that it can speed up your claim’s processing and increase your chances of getting a higher VA rate.

Pro Tips:

This form is a personal statement from a Veteran. However, sometimes people tend to misinterpret its purpose and go overly emotional in their vision of the events, which does not help the case.

Here are some tips on how to take full advantage of the VA Form 21-4138:

  1. Keep it Short and Clear
    While there is no limitation to how long your statement should be, it is best to stay within 3-5 paragraphs. Try not to overload the text with unnecessary details and emotional
    statements, which can make it harder to read and understand.
  2. Speak about Your Accident or Tauma and the Circumstances Around it
    This form is a great opportunity to help establish a service connection for your disability and we highly recommend focusing on this purpose and giving all the relevant details.
  3. Don’t Lie
    Make sure to provide accurate information and details. Remember, exaggerating and sugarcoating your story will hardly help your case, while the penalty of perjury for false statements on a VA disability claim has not been canceled yet.

Form #3: VA Form 21-686C

Declaration Application Request to Add or Remove Dependents 

What’s it for:

This form allows you to claim additional benefits for having or adding new dependents. The same VA Form 21-686C is used when you need to remove a dependent from your benefits.

Common Mistakes:

There are two ways Veterans misinterpret this form or underestimate its importance:

  1. Thinking that the Government Knows Everything About Everyone
    Veterans are sometimes surprised that they need to fill out a special form to inform the VA about their marriage, birth or adoption of a child, death in the family, etc., thinking that the government knows about such events anyway. And while it does, the bureaucratic machine is a complex ecosystem, where nothing happens on its own. It is your responsibility to make sure such important events are accounted for in your VA disability benefits.
  2. Deliberately Withholding Information
    The dependent’s removal will affect your VA disability compensation. Unfortunately, sometimes people try to conceal the change in their family situations trying to preserve their monthly payments. It can lead to pretty severe legal and financial consequences from overpayment and debt to allegations of fraud and criminal charges.

Pro Tips:

Veterans use the VA Form 21-686C to add dependents in case of:

  • Marriage (including marriage by ceremony, proxy marriage, and establishing a common-law marriage)
  • Birth of a child 
  • Adoption of a child
  • Having a student child between 18 and 23 years old
  • Having a dependent parent

You can use the same form to remove dependents from your case in the event of:

  • Divorce
  • Death of spouse, child, or dependent parent
  • Marriage of a child
  • Having a child between 18 and 23 y.o. who is not in school

To fill out the VA Form 21-686C correctly you will need the following information about the dependent:

  1. Social security number
  2. Birth date
  3. Place of birth
  4. In case of death – date and place of death
  5. For a student child between 18 and 23 years olfd – name and address of their school

FORM #4: VA Form 10-10EZ

Application for Health Benefits

What’s it for:

This form allows Veterans to enroll in the VA healthcare system. However,  this form is pretty confusing mainly because it requires lots of very specific information.

Common Mistakes:

Here are some of the main mistakes and misconceptions often connected with the VA Form 10-10EZ:

  • Incomplete Financial Information
    Veterans sometimes fail to provide complete and accurate financial information, including income, assets, and expenses.
  • Confusing Eligibility Requirements
    Getting access to VA healthcare services has several specific requirements to a Veteran’s status, service and discharge conditions as well as income level. Make sure to contact a professional and check your eligibility before filling out this form.
  • Confusing Enrollment Priority Group
    Judging by the information you provide, the VA will determine your enrollment priority group. Incorrect or incomplete entries may stick you in a lower priority group, which will affect the healthcare benefits you will eventually receive.

Pro Tips:

VA Form 10-10EZ is probably one of the most specific and complicated ones. Make sure to:

  1. Double-Check Every Detail
    Accuracy is key. Double-check every entry to avoid mistakes that could delay your application.
  2. Gather Supporting Documents
    Collect as many supporting documents as possible. They strengthen your application and can expedite processing.
  3. Consult a Professional
    Consider getting professional advice to determine your eligibility and ensure you’re placed in the correct VA healthcare priority group.
  4. Plan for the Future
    Understand that this form affects your long-term benefits, so make sure all information is accurate and comprehensive.

FORM #5: VA Form 21-2680

Examination for Housebound Status or Permanent Need for Regular Aid and Attendance

What’s it for:

Veterans use VA Form 21-2680 to apply for additional benefits based on their need for regular assistance or housebound status. However, people often misunderstand what exactly the form is about and which information is crucial in this case.

Common Mistakes:

Here are the most common mistakes:

  • Incomplete Description of Daily Activities

The form requires a detailed description of a Veteran’s daily activities to determine the impact of their disability and eligibility for regular aid and attendance. Bathing, eating, using the restroom, or dressing – all those activities need to be described thoroughly.

  • Not Consulting a Medical Professional
    Filling out the form you may want to mention some very specific diagnoses, terms, and medical details that can affect your case. It is always best to have a medical professional by your side, who will highlight the most important information.

Pro Tips:

The VA Form 21-2680 is all about details and sometimes very specific terms. 

  1. Check Eligibility First
    Before you start, ensure you meet all eligibility criteria. This saves time and effort in the long run.
  2. Detail Every Aspect
    Be thorough. Include every small detail that supports your case.
  3. Document Everything
    Keep copies of all medical records and documents you submit. These are essential for reference and in case of any issues.
  4. Patience is Key
    Processing can take time. Stay patient and keep in touch with the VA.

FORM #6: VA Form 10182

Decision Review Request: Board Appeal (Notice of Disagreement)

What’s it for:

You can use this form to appeal a decision made by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on your benefits claims. It is probably the most complicated VA form because it involves some very specific legal nuances.

Common Mistakes

Filling out the VA Form 10182, people often:

  • Getting Emotional
    Yes, being refused your honorably deserved benefits or getting a low disability rate can be infuriating. But this form exists precisely to fix such mistakes. Getting emotional, and thinking that there is no use to try and fight the system will not help your case.
  • Missed Deadlines
    You have 365 days after receiving the official VA decision to appeal it. As much as it is important to collect and double-check the evidence, make sure to meet this deadline.
  • Don’t Research Options
    The VA provides 3 options to appeal their decisions and you can try each of them until you are satisfied with your disability rate and assigned compensation. That is why it is so important to consult a professional who will help you take control of your case and provide the most powerful tool – Relevant information.

Pro Tips:

To submit the decision reviewing request, you will need to provide your basic information:

  • Date of birth
  • Social security number
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Current mailing address

Then you will need to:

  1. Describe Issues Clearly
    Clearly outline the specific issues in the VA decision.
  2. Provide Evidence
    Include evidence that supports your case and proves the misjudgement.
  3. Stay Organized
    Keep all your documentation well-organized and easily accessible for reference throughout the review process.

How to Submit Any VA Form Correctly

Once you filled out the Form and collected all the supporting documents, evidence, and medical records, you can submit it through:

  • The closest VA Regional Office
  • Online 
  • Legal representatives (Accredited Veterans Service Officers (VSOs), attorneys, or VSO accredited agents)
  • By mail:

Department of Veterans Affairs
Evidence Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444

Choosing the most convenient and accessible means of submitting your VA Form and communicating with the VA regarding your case is another way to make sure that you will successfully claim what is rightfully yours.

Also, don’t underestimate the importance of qualified help while seeking and claiming your VA disability benefits. Book your FREE 30-minute call with our Veterans Specialist today and we will help you:

  • Understand your eligibility
  • Determine which benefits you may be entitled to
  • Help you collect the evidence and fill out the forms
  • Make sure you avoid all the possible mistakes, shorten the processing period, and maximize your VA benefits

Make your first step today and the VCU experts will hold your hand all the way through till you receive everything you deserve for your sacrifice and honorable service.

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