How Do I Prove My Unemployability to the Veterans Administration?

By Kristy Borowik
When your service-related disability prevents you from working, file for VA benefits.

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Eligibility for benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is based on the satisfaction of three requirements. A physician must diagnose you with a current disease or disorder (disability). You must prove that the disability is service-related: it either began during active duty or was aggravated beyond natural progression during active duty. You must show medical evidence between your military service and the disability. To obtain full unemployment benefits you must prove that your unemployment is due to your service-related disability and that your disability renders you totally disabled and unemployable.

Gather injury reports and medical records from your time in active duty and post-service medical records. Prove that your disability either began during active military service or that a pre-existing condition was aggravated during service beyond natural progression (had you not served in active duty). Your doctor can help you prove the latter.

Obtain a statement from your doctor explaining that your disability prevents you from being able to work.

Complete the "Veterans Application for Compensation and/or Pension" (VA Form 21-526), specifically identifying the benefits you seek. Follow all instructions carefully, and do not leave any required fields blank.

Attach a copy of your supporting documents to the application, along with a signed release for the VA to request medical records from your physicians. At a minimum, include copies of your military discharge papers, dependency records and medical evidence of your disability.

Obtain help from a lawyer who specializes in VA disability claims or free assistance from a national organization, such as the Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion or Paralyzed Veterans of America. The State Departments of Veterans Affairs can also help you locate your local regional office to see what organizations are available to help you.

Respond to any inquiries from the VA as soon as possible. If you do not submit all required information within a year of the original application date, they will consider your application abandoned.

Report for all required VA medical exams to prove that you are unable to work. The VA may require several exams over time for period proof that your condition remains the same.

Appeal within one year if the regional office denies your claim. Complete a "Statement in Support of Claim" (VA Form 21-4138) or send a letter to the regional office to notify them of your intent to appeal. Write "NOTICE OF DISAGREEMENT" at the top of the document, and include a statement that you disagree, along with the date of the decision. Meet with the Decision Review Officer to present your case. If the DRO denies your case, you may appeal to the Board of Veterans' Appeals.

About the Author

Based in Southern California, Kristy Borowik has been writing professionally since 2004. She serves as a technical writer and editor, earning several awards from the Society for Technical Communication, with articles also appearing in "Trilogy Life" magazine. Borowik holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and print journalism from Southern Adventist University.

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