30 Day Financial Transition Challenge Day 19: VA Disability

Welcome to Day Nineteen of the “30 Day Financial Transition Challenge.”  Today’s article focuses on VA disability.

Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF)

As part of military service, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) offers service-related benefits, many of which depend on your VA disability status.  Even if you don’t think you’re ‘disabled,’ it’s important for you to take some time to learn more about where you stand, and whom to turn to if you need help in the future.

Why? 

Over the course of a military career, servicemembers are faced with a variety of physical challenges that most people never have to worry about.  Many of these challenges come in the form of exposures or seemingly harmless injuries that are ‘blown off’ and not taken seriously.  Your transition is the best chance you have to get a ‘snapshot’ of where you stand, medically.  Even if you don’t intend to file a claim today, doing this properly will help you down the road, should you change your mind.  Additionally, it’s very important to understand the landscape, and to make sure you know who to reach out to when you do need help navigating the VA’s disability system.

Goal

This article will not teach you the ins and outs of filing a claim.  Today’s goal should be to figure out:

  • Where you stand, medically speaking (Day 12-Health Care).
  • Whether you plan to file a VA disability claim as part of your transition.
  • Where you can turn when you need help in the future.
  • Whether you need professional assistance to help evaluate your insurance needs

What you need

Only the medical information you gathered in Day 12.

How-to

This exercise consists of a simple checklist of questions to help frame your approach.

 1. Are you still on active duty?

  • If so, you should talk to your installation’s transition office for more information.
  • Most installations have VA benefits classes outside of TAP. Sign up for one so you can learn more.
  • You can file before your discharge/retirement (up to 180 days before). You’ll want to make sure you have your medical records compiled before then.
  • Figure out when you need to have your VA physical done.
  • Research VSOs (Veteran Service Organizations) to figure out where to start learning about the claims process and how it might pertain to your situation.

2. Are you already out of the service?

  • An accredited claims agent can help you file a claim. Schedule an appointment today. A searchable list is available online at the VA’s website.
  • VFW is a great place to start. Their accredited agents can serve you and their service is free of charge.
  • You can also go to the FB Group: Veteran 2 Veteran Info.   This is a really large FB group filled with people who have experienced the claims process.  You can
  • If you believe the free VSOs might not be able to handle the complexity of your claim, you might want to hire an independent agent, or attorney who specializes in VA disability claims. A fee may apply, but an independent agent can only charge AFTER the VA’s decision is final.
    • Ask in advance what the fee structure is.
    • Schedule an appointment today.

3. If you don’t plan to immediately file a claim:

  • Do you know what conditions you have, that you might file a claim for later?
  • Do you know whether there is a registry you should sign up for? There are registries for:
    • Gulf War veterans
    • Burn pit exposure
    • Depleted uranium (DU) exposure
    • Agent Orange (Vietnam)
    • Ionizing radiation
    • Toxic embedded fragments.  You might want to learn more about these registries at the VA’s website.
  • Do you know who you’ll turn to when you do need to file a claim?
    • You might want to talk to a VSO just so you understand the best way to keep your medical records intact for future reference.

Conclusion

To wrap up, today you’re going to:

  • Figure out where you stand, medically speaking
  • Determine whether you’ll file a disability claim before your transition, or shortly afterwards
  • Learn more about the resources that are available
  • Identify the office that you’ll turn to for professional assistance.

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss your estate planning needs.  There are many aspects of estate planning you should be familiar with.  It’s important to take time to fully understand them so that your estate plan supports your values and goals.

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About Forrest Baumhover

I'm a career naval officer, and a fee-only financial planner. Half-way through my career, I discovered that I had a passion for financial planning, and have pursued this as my second career. My specialty is working with military professionals who are looking to separate or retire from the service, and who feel they need some professional guidance to make sure they're on track.
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