One form can lock claim date

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DAV helping veterans navigate new forms for secure effective date for VA claims

Securing an effective date for a benefits claim is a critical first step that should be a veteran’s first priority – even before assembling the evidence needed to support the claim. Establishing this official starting point ensures a veteran will receive the compensation they earned retroactively if their claim is granted, regardless of how long it takes to adjudicate the claim.

Laws that went into effect last year require that all claims to the VA be filed on standard forms, regardless of the type. This ended the VA’s longtime practice of informally initiating veterans’ disability claims.

“A veteran needs to ensure there is no doubt as to the effective dates of claims,” said National Service Director Jim Marszalek. “Of course, our national, department and chapter service officers, including county veteran service officers, are ready to help everyone get through and understand these new requirements.”

The standard form, VA Form 21-0966, Intent to File a Claim for Compensation and/or Pension, Survivors Pension, or Other Benefits, requires information necessary to identify and support compensation, pension and other benefit claims.

An individual or their representative can submit this form in order to establish a potential effective date for benefits and then take up to a year to gather the evidence necessary to support the claim.

The form may be submitted electronically,on paperor over the phone. It is electronically available through eBenefits. The form can be submitted there or in hard copy by mailing it to a DAV national service office. The form can also be completed over the phone by a DAV national service officer.

Submitting an Intent to File form protects an effective date of benefits for up to one year, meaning individuals seeking compensation or pension benefits will have a full year to gather and submit evidence along with the necessary claim form.

If a veterans wants to file for compensation, he or she can do so online. If that is not possible or preferred, the veteran must use the VA’s EZ forms:

  • VA Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits, is needed for paper submissions;
  • Pension claims must be filed on VA Form 21-527EZ, Application for Pension;
  • Survivors’ claims for dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC), survivors’ pension and accrued benefits must be filed on VA Form 21-534EZ, Application for DIC, Death Pension, and/or Accrued Benefits.

Veterans and survivors do not have to file fully developed claims (FDCs) when using these mandatory forms, but the VA encourages FDC participation because it can expedite delivery of benefits through the FDC program.

Also, a standardized “notice of disagreement” form is required when a claimant wishes to initiate an appeal of a VA decision. That is VA Form 21-0958, Notice of Disagreement.

“Our NSOs have been trained on these new laws and forms, and this will be a key topic in this year’s Department and Chapter Service Officer Certification Training Program,” Marszalek said. “Veterans, family members and survivors should always feel free to contact their local DAV national service office with any questions about claims, appeals and compensation.”

Contact information for those offices can be found online at

Forms can be found at