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Overview and disclaimer :

I’m not a lawyer and you should not take any information presented here as legal advice.  I’m only trying to provide information that would be useful to you in filing your claim. LEGAL ADVICE should alway come from a LAWYER.

Unfortunately,  Veterans generally do not
have the advantage of hiring attorneys to represent
them. The reason for this is because attorneys are
forbidden from charging fees for their services to
veterans at the initial claims point. It is not until the
veteran has been denied their claim that a veteran
can retain an attorney.  It is the initial claim that is generally where an attorney could do the most good because initial claims are rife with errors by both the VA adjudicator and the veteran.  Veterans looking for legal advice about their benefits should consult an attorney or Veteran Service Organization.


General tips:

  1.  Do your own research.  Nobody is as good an advocate for you as YOU.
  2. Document EVERYTHING.  Get Recordings if you can of every meeting with any VA employee.  While the VA initially banned such recordings, the ban was later rescinded. If you have a smart phone learn how to record with it. Take it with  you and tell the employee you are meeting that you have a terrible memory and need to record the meeting so you won’t forget anything.  You should also have someone with you to verify when and where the recording was made… State laws differ if you decide not to tell the employee…check with a lawyer to be sure it’s legal…
  3. Keep a log book.  Log every meeting, phone call, VA visit..Time,  date, reason for visit, as many details as you can about what happens in the meeting.  Have your witness co-sign the record.
  4. Never lose your temper.  If you get mad and the employee gets mad nothing gets done.  Instead use constructive engagement…Instead of “You’re wrong” or “This is what you must do…”  try   “I can see your point, but consider this”  Present you point and ask ” What do you think.  Can you help me with this?”
  5. Don’t be afraid to involve your Senators and Representatives.  If you get stuck things sometimes move along more quickly when your Congressman gets involved.  Just don’t expect miracles.  The VA is quite adept at dodging inquiries but the recent scandals and revelations, they really hate hearing from Congress.
  6. Don’t allow yourself to become frustrated and depressed,  Occasionally, take some time off from the fight.  Spend some ME time.  We all have a place within is that peace and joy reside.  Take a walk in the woods or go camping,  (The  forest  is healing  for your soul) and find that place and just spend some time there.
  7. NEVER  GIVE  UP.  You  fail only when you quit.


Steps to a fully developed claim…

  1. Research every condition and injury you have within your medical records (about the possible presumptive conditions that show up within one year – bring these up too). To do this, identify the key terms and find them in 38 CFR Part 4: Schedule of Ratings,  You can find things more quickly there by Clicking [control+f] and typing in the term you’re looking for…

2. Get ALL your records…If you haven’t started a file yet, start one and take it with you every time you go to the VA . You’ll need Military records, including your MEDICAL RECORDS.   To get Military medical records start HERE.  You can also get your general military records there.  These might be useful to prove exposure for presumptive illnesses You can get a copy of your VA Medical Records at the Facility where you are treated, but you also need your military records and a copy of your C-file.  You’ll need to file an FOIA Request for those..                                      

                                      Sample FOIA Request Template

( Address)
(Claim Number)
(Counselor Name)
Department of Veterans Affairs
(Address of  VA records facility)
Re: Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request            Dear (Insert Counselor Name):  

 I am writing to request a copy of all records including but not limited to:  Military record,  military medical record,  VA medical files, and C-file through FOIA

[ You might have to modify this plan and send a separate letter for each type of record…]

Please furnish a copy of my files to the above mailing address.

My file can be found under: (Claim Number)

I further request a full waiver of fees associated with this request. The information I am requesting is material to my claim for benefits from the VA.

If you deny this request, please cite the reason you feel justified for the denial, and provide me with information I will need to make an appeal.

Please contact me with any questions about this appeal via phone or email at (insert
phone number and email address).

(Typed Name)  



There are no special forms required to submit a request; however, VA requires that your FOIA request:

  • -Be in writing and signed by the person submitting the request. The following must also be adhered to:
  • -Reasonably describe the records so that it may be located with a reasonable amount of effort.
  • -State your willingness to pay applicable fees or provide a justification to support a fee waiver. (Fee information may be found at:
  • -Include a daytime telephone number in case they need to contact you.

If you choose, VA Form 21-4138, Statement in Support of Claim, may be used for this purpose. A copy of this form has been attached to this reply for your convenience. You may also print this form at the following web site:

VA has a website that contains information specifically relevant to Freedom of Information. Please see: This web site provides a wealth of information about FOIA, the specifics of how to make a request, etc.

3.  Write up a summary of all the conditions and include dates of treatment while in service and after. You do not need to seek medical attention for every issue in order to document it. For example,
incapacitating episodes are considered episodes that required a doctor’s visit. Non-incapacitating
episodes are not. A person can self-medicate certain conditions. But always remember the condition
needs to be current in order to count.

  • Try to keep the summary sheet as short as possible – One to five pages, depending on the number of issues.    Include a table of contents of your injuries and all documents.
  • One thing your evidence should have is a Nexus letter (hopefully from a doctor) explaining how the evidence in your file is relevant to the condition you have now. This can be tricky for new conditions secondary to service-connected conditions…
  • Try to get them to fill out a DBQ…LINK  If your VA doctors’  response is ” Nah”’We don’t do that here.”  remind them politely that VA policy REQUIRES them to do so…They would PREFER for C&P examiners to fill them out but any QUALIFIED care provider is required to do so…
  • One misunderstanding of many is that lay evidence counts very little because it is not “objective.” (lay evidence is a statement from the veteran or buddy letter that supports a claim). Not true according to Jandreau v. Nicholson, 492 F. 3d 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2007). In a Veterans’  claim for benefits, lay evidence can be competent and sufficient to establish a
    diagnosis of a condition when (1) a layperson is competent to identify the medical condition, [such
    as a broken leg, but not a form cancer], (2) the layperson is reporting a contemporaneous medical
    diagnosis, or (3) lay testimony describing symptoms at the time supports a later diagnosis by a
    medical professional.”
    This means the lay person cannot “render medical opinions, including etiology opinions,” but can
    provide testimony that is an eyewitness account of medical symptoms.

4.   Find a Veterans Service Officer…                                        Veteran Service Officers will help you navigate the DVA’s bureaucracy, and their services are free. They will help with gathering the information necessary to support a claim, filing the claim, and tracking the claim through the VA system. They can also assist with filing appeals for denied claims.   …   

Not All VSO’s are Created Equal. Keep an open mind and shop around for the one you feel the most confident with handling your case. Some have less training or experience than others. Others have too many cases to directly manage in an effective manner. The advantage for you will be the fact that you have your case already together. Talk to the VSO about how to further document your claim prior to filing it or after filing it.   These organizations provide VSOs…                

Veterans of Foreign Wars American Legion Miltary Order of the Purple Heart
Vietnam Veterans of America Disabled American Veterans Amvets
Paralyzed Veterans of America

State Veteran Affairs Offices

Every state provides Veteran Service Officers. They will help with VA claims, and they can help you identify benefits available from your state government, such as reduced property taxes or educational benefits for dependents. Click on your State below to locate a State VSO near you.

Please inform the folks at  if any of these links are broken. They’ll update the state’s changes immediately.


6. Time to file the claim.

Fully Developed Claims

Filing a Fully Developed Claim (FDC) allows Veterans, Service members and survivors the option to participate more fully in the claims process. When Veterans, Service members and survivors provide all required evidence at the same time as described above,  they submit a claim AND certify that they have no more evidence,  VA can issue a decision faster.

Veterans may file the following types of FDC claims electronically:

  • An injury, disability, or condition you believe occurred or was aggravated by your service
  • A condition caused or aggravated by an existing service-related condition.

 To File an Electronic FDC 

  • Go to to find a Veterans Service Officer who can provide free, expert assistance.
  • Gather supporting documents, including your DD-214, service and private medical records, and buddy statements as described above.
  • Your VSO can usually file your claim for you, either electronically of by paperwork or you can initiate your claim yourself at or call 1-800-827-1000 for assistance.



  •  As far as I’m concerned, DisabledVeterans.Org  is the premier place to visit for all info about Benefit Claims and Voc Rehab Claims…Get Bens’ free guide Researching  Disability  Compensation when you sign up for his newsletter.    Please Note: Though we share the same mission,  DVO and VA Report are seperate and not accociated in any way…
  • You can also join our newsletter at VA Report.
  • The VA sometimes is a good resource. resource…click here for
  • To get your military records, National Archive is a good place to start…Click here for

If you haven’t already signed up for the newsletter you can do so here

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