Earlier this year, during our testimony before the Joint House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, I told House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Mike Bost that the ways veterans are introduced to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits are incredibly complex which is primarily due to the department’s forms.

At DAV, we continue to insist that the VA take a no wrong form approach and protect effective dates for veterans regardless of the form received by VA. However, until this issue is fixed, we must stress to all our department and chapter service officers the importance of using the correct forms when filing for veteran benefits.


Intent to File 

An Intent to File, VA Form 21-0966, informally establishes the effective date for an upcoming claim and advises the VA of forthcoming actions that allows a veteran more time to gather evidence. Though not formally required to start the process, this form is critical to protecting the effective date for retroactive compensation if the claim is granted.

Once an Intent to File is received by the VA, veterans have up to 12 months to gather evidence and formally file a claim. Please remember that only one ITF can be active at a time, so it is important to read all correspondence from the VA and know what is happening with your claim.


Supplemental Claim

A supplemental claim, VA Form 20-0995, is used to file a claim for an illness or injury that has been previously denied by the VA at any time in the past. If you file a supplemental claim within 12 months after receiving a decision, you may keep the effective date of the initial claim.

A supplemental claim requires new and relevant evidence that is directly related to the claim. New evidence is information that was not submitted to the VA in the past. Relevant evidence is information that proves or disproves something in a claim.


New, Secondary or Increase in Compensation

VA Form 21-526EZ is one of the most important forms in the disability claims process. This form must be used for any claim for an illness or injury that has not been claimed in the past. Also, claims for increased ratings and secondary conditions should be filed on the VA Form 21-526EZ.

When it comes to the disability claims process, we all know how complex it can be to navigate. It is up to us to ensure we do our due diligence when submitting claims on behalf of the veterans we serve. If the VA does not accept a form because the wrong one was used or filled out incorrectly, the veteran could be at risk of losing their effective date, greatly impacting their reactive benefits.

For a list of VA claim and appeal forms, please visit https://www.dav.org/get-help-now/va-benefits-help/ or contact your nearest DAV service office by visiting benefitsquestions.org as they are available to answer any additional questions you might have.