Tips for a Successful VA Pension Application

Have you heard how challenging it can be to interact with the Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA)? The VA’s reputation may be well-earned, but there are steps you can take to expedite the VA pension application process, according to Chris Johnson, an attorney at Takacs McGinnis Elder Care Law, a Life Care Planning Law Firm in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Chris, a Marine Corps veteran who served as an attorney in the U.S. military for nearly a decade before joining Takacs McGinnis, shares four “Pro-Tips” that separate successful claims from those that get stuck in the system.

First, it’s important to know that the VA pension application process is a byzantine system. Getting sidetracked once can create delays that linger for months. “It’s better to take a few additional days on the front end and ensure everything is in order than rush an application and pay for it with delays on the back end,” counsels Chris.

Every application needs to have the supporting documents, also known as verifications, supplied to the VA in a neat and orderly manner. If these documents are thrown in the application like the receipts in a shoebox that some people take to their tax preparers, you will inevitably get sidetracked. The goal is to make the application easily digestible by the claims processor, so that they can find everything they are looking for quickly and easily.”

Second, Chris recommends that every application include a VA Form 4138 Statement in Support of Claim. This is a cover sheet that gives an overview of the application’s contents, highlights any special circumstances, and answers any immediate questions that the claims processor may have. “Being able to anticipate questions the claims processor may have when reviewing the file, and have those answers already supplied for them can set your application apart from the rest, making it much easier for the claims processor to review your filing in an efficient manner,” says Chris. Form 4138 is also the place to mention factors that might warrant expedited processing. Claimants who are older than age 85, dealing with dire or terminal medical issues, or in financial distress may all be eligible for expedited processing. “When you request expedited processing, it’s possible to see a response from the VA in under 30 days, a far better result than the 120 days it normally takes.”

Third, if your loved one is applying for VA Aid and Attendance in addition to the non-service connected pension, the VA Form 2680, the medical evaluation, is vitally important. This will often be the only medical documentation used to determine eligibility for Aid and Attendance. “The healthcare provider should give the VA as much information as possible,” Chris advises. “When you schedule the appointment with your provider, consider requesting back-to-back appointments so that he or she can do the examination in one slot and fill out the form in the other slot. Many doctor’s offices will appreciate your consideration of their time and other obligations. And you may need to gently remind the provider that all of the information under the sun does no good if it is not legible.” 

Finally, if the claimant has limitations, these need to be mentioned first on Form 2680, not buried in the middle of a paragraph, and it’s important to emphasize what the person cannot do. “For instance, if an individual cannot prepare a meal without catching the kitchen on fire, they cannot prepare their own meals,” adds Chris.

These may seem like small tips, but they can greatly expedite the VA pension application process. If you need assistance with your application, it’s always a good idea to consult with VA accredited professionals. Getting your claim done right the first time makes all the difference!