Our Veterans made great sacrifices for us on the battlefield and we owe them a debt of gratitude for that service. I am committed to ensuring our veterans can access the benefits they've earned through their service to our nation; whether it is accessing health care, employment and educational opportunities, or just support within our communities.
My office is frequently contacted by veterans who have questions about their VA claims, VA benefits, medical care, service records and other issues related to the VA. Below are a few of the most common questions that my office receives:
How long does it take for the VA to process my claim:
Within the current legal framework, the average processing time for all appeals is approximately 3 years. Veterans who decide to appeal to VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals wait an average of 6 years from the initiation of their appeal in the Veterans Benefits Administration for the Board’s decision.
How can I contact the Department of Veterans Affairs?
The VA has toll free numbers for the convenience of veterans and dependents.
- Benefits Information 1-800-827-1000
- Life Insurance 1-800-669-8477
- Debt Management 1-800-827-0648
- Mammography Hotline 1-888-492-7844
- Tele. Dev. for Deaf (TDD) 1-800-829-4833
- CHAMPVA 1-800-733-8387
- Headstones/Markers 1-800-697-6947
- Gulf War Helpline 1-800-749-8387
- Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255
- Sexual Trauma Hotline 1-800-827-1000
Information for returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan
The Department of Veterans Affairs has set up a dedicated website for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan to learn about benefits and available resources. Click here to visit the OIF/OEF returning service members page.
How can I get a copy of my military records (discharge, medical, etc.)?
Most military records are stored at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri.
I would like more information about the education benefits provided by the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Where can I find information about this program and how can I apply?
As of August 1, 2009, the Post-9/11 GI Bill provides eligible individuals with the opportunity to receive graduate and undergraduate degrees, vocational/technical training, on the job training, tutorial assistance, and licensing and certification test reimbursement. The Department of Veterans Affairs maintains an up-to-date website dedicated to helping veterans access these benefits. Please visit this site to learn more and see if the program is right for you and also contact the Veterans’ Services Coordinator at the institution you plan to attend for more specific information.
How do I get a copy of my military records?
Most military records are stored at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri.
Visit the National Archives Website for more information:
National Personnel Records Center
9700 Page Avenue
St. Louis, Missouri 63132-5100
This is also an area where a congressional office can really help. If you are trying to get records from your military service, or that of a family member, feel free to contact my office. I will need your written permission to help with this issue. To make that easier, you can print out this Authorization Form, and fax or mail it to my office.
How can I get replacement medals?
You can request replacement for lost or stolen medals from the National Personnel Records Center:
Visit the National Personnel Records Center Website for more information:
National Personnel Records Center
9700 Page Avenue
St. Louis, Missouri 63132-5100
In many cases, it may be faster to get medals if you work through a congressional office. If you are owed medals from your service, or are the next-of-kin requesting medals for a family member, just fill out this Privacy Release Form and email it to: firstname.lastname@example.org or fax it to the number on the form. Once this information is received, my office will be in touch with you regarding any other paperwork that might be required in order to send the request to the proper officials.
Information about VA Clams Process and Compensation
There are eight distinct steps that most claims for disability compensation follow. These phases may vary in time depending on the complexity of the claim, the amount of evidence that must be gathered to support the claims, and the type of evidence. You are strongly encouraged to submit as much evidence as possible with your claim to help minimize processing time. The eight steps of claims processing are as follows:
Step 1. Claim Received
Your claim has been received by the VA. If you applied online with VONAPP Direct Connect, you should see receipt in your list of Open Claims within one hour. If you applied through the U.S. mail, please allow mailing time plus one week for us to process and record receipt of your claim.
Step 2. Under Review
Your claim has been assigned to a Veterans Service Representative and is being reviewed to determine if additional evidence is needed. If we do not need any additional information, your claim will move directly to the Preparation for Decision phase.
Step 3. Gathering of Evidence
The Veterans Service Representative will request evidence from the required sources. Requests for evidence may be made of you, a medical professional, a government agency, or another authority. It is common for claims to return to this phase, should additional evidence be required.
Step 4. Review of Evidence
We have received all needed evidence. If, upon review, it is determined that more evidence is required, the claim will be sent back to the Gathering of Evidence phase.
Step 5. Preparation for Decision
The Veterans Service Representative has recommended a decision, and is preparing required documents detailing that decision. If more evidence is required, the claim will be sent back in the process for more information or evidence.
Step 6. Pending Decision Approval
The recommended decision is reviewed, and a final award approval is made. If it is determined that more evidence or information is required, the claim will be sent back in the process for more information or evidence.
Step7. Preparation for Notification
Your entire claim decision packet is prepared for mailing.
Step 8. Complete
The VA has sent a decision packet to you by U.S. mail. The packet includes details of the decision or award. Please allow standard mailing time for your packet to arrive before contacting a VA call center.
For information regarding this matter please visits the VA Benefits webpage:
VA Compensation and Benefit
The benefit amount is graduated according to the degree of the Veteran's disability on a scale from 10 percent to 100 percent (in increments of 10 percent). Compensation may also be paid for disabilities that are considered related or secondary to disabilities occurring in service and for disabilities presumed to be related to circumstances of military service, even though they may arise after service. Generally, the degrees of disability specified are also designed to compensate for considerable loss of working time from exacerbations or illnesses.
If you have dependents, an additional allowance may be added if your combined disability is rated 30% or greater. Your compensation may be offset if you receive military retirement pay, disability severance pay, or separation incentive payments. More information about disability compensation benefit amounts can be found on the Compensation Rates page.
- Service in the Uniformed Services on active duty, OR
- Active duty for training, OR
- Inactive duty training, AND
- You were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions, AND
- You are at least 10% disabled by an injury or disease that was incurred in or aggravated during active duty or active duty for training, or inactive duty training
Note: If you were on inactive duty for training, the disability must have resulted from injury, heart attack, or stroke.
- Medical evidence of a current physical or mental disability, AND
- Evidence of a relationship between your disability and an injury, disease, or event in military service. Medical records or medical opinions are required to establish this relationship.
Note: Under certain circumstances, VA may conclude that certain current disabilities were caused by service, even if there is no specific evidence proving this in your particular claim. The cause of a disability is presumed for the following Veterans who have certain diseases.
- Former prisoners of war
- Veterans who have certain chronic or tropical diseases that become evident within a specific period of time after discharge from service
- Veterans who were exposed to ionizing radiation, mustard gas, or Lewisite while in service
- Veterans who were exposed to certain herbicides, such as by serving in Vietnam
- Veterans who served in Southwest Asia during the Gulf War
During a weekend drill, an Army Reservist injures her knee while participating in a physical training class. She is eligible for compensation for residuals of the knee injury.
An individual enlisted in the U.S. Navy on June 10, 1988, and served for a period of 3 years. He was honorably discharged on June 9, 1991. During his active duty, he fell from a bunk and injured his back. Based on his active service, he is entitled to service-connected benefits for the residuals of his back injury.
To support a claim for service connection, the evidence must show the following:
- You have a current physical or mental disability.
- You had an injury or disease in service or experienced an event in service that caused or aggravated an injury or disease.
- There is a link between your current disability and the event, injury, or disease in military service.
If you have any of the following relevant items, you should submit them with your claim:
- Discharge or separation papers (the DD-214 or equivalent)
- Service treatment records and supporting statements
- Private medical provider records and hospital reports
Types of VA Claims
There are numerous types of claims that apply to disability compensation. They can be based on disabilities that existed when entering military service, but were made worse, disabilities that occurred during service, or disabilities that arose after you left military service. Additionally, there are claims that are filed for special circumstances.
Servicemembers that are within 180 days of separation or retirement from active duty or full time National Guard duty may file claims for disability compensation. Learn more about pre-discharge claims
Claims Based on Pre-Service Disabilities
Individuals may enter military service with a known disability. Should this disability become worse due to military service, VA may be able to pay compensation. This is known as aggravation; however, compensation can only be paid for the level of aggravation. For example, at entry into military service, an individual has a disabling condition that could be considered 10% disabling. In order for this condition to be considered aggravated, it would have to have worsened due to military service to at least 20%.
Claims Based on In-Service Disabilities
These claims are based on disabilities that are a result of an injury or disease that occurred in active service, and in the line of duty. Injuries or diseases as a result of the Veteran's own willful misconduct or abuse of alcohol or drugs are excluded.
Claims Based on Post-Service Disabilities
Claims for post-service disabilities would include claims for disabilities that are a result of disabilities considered to be service-related, even though the disability arose after service. There are various classifications of presumptive disabilities which can be based on location or circumstances of service or just by military service itself. Learn more about post service claims
Claims Based on Special Circumstances
Claims regarding compensation are not always based on an in-service event. In other words, after a disability has been determined to be service connected, there may be other types of claims a Veteran or surviving spouse may wish to file. This might include a claim for a temporary 100% rating due to surgery for a service-connected disability, or additional compensation based on being in need of regular aid and attendance. Learn more about special claims
How to Identify VA Claims
An original claim is the first claim you file for compensation from VA. This can be filed by a Servicemember, Veteran or survivors of deceased Veterans.
A reopened claim is a claim filed for a benefit that could not be granted and the decision has become final, meaning that it is over one year old and has not been appealed. VA cannot reopen these claims unless new and material evidence is received. New evidence is evidence that the VA has never before considered in connection with the specific benefit claimed. Material evidence is evidence that is relevant to and has a direct bearing on the issue at hand.
A Veteran was treated several times during service for pain in the right elbow. He filed a claim for service connection in 1989, but his claim could not be granted because no orthopedic abnormalities were found on VA examination. Two years later, his private physician x-rayed the elbow and noted arthritic changes in the joint. The Veteran submitted the new evidence to VA. Because it suggested a residual of his in-service elbow problems did exist, VA reopened his claim.
A Veteran was discharged from service in 1977. He filed an original claim for service connection for pes planus (flat foot) 20 years later. VA was unable to grant his claim because pes planus was never noted in the Veteran's service treatment records. In 2001, he attempted to reopen his claim by submitting a statement from his private physician confirming the diagnosis of pes planus. VA was unable to reopen the claim because, while the evidence was "new," it was not "material," in that it failed to demonstrate the Veteran was diagnosed with pes planus during service.
A new claim is a claim for a benefit that may or may not have been filed before. Generally, the decision made on the claim is based entirely on new evidence. These may include claims for:
- An increased disability evaluation
- Special monthly compensation
- Individual unemployability
A new claim differs from a reopened claim in that a decision on the claim is totally independent of any evidence submitted in connection with an earlier claim.
These are claims for disabilities that developed as a result of or were worsened by another service-connected condition. In other words, it is recognized that a service-connected disability may cause a second disability. This second disability may not otherwise be considered service-connected.
A Veteran has a service-connected knee injury that causes him to walk with a limp. He subsequently develops arthritis in his hip. Although the arthritic condition was not incurred during or aggravated by service, service-connection may still be established if the arthritis is a result of his knee condition.
A Veteran was in the Army for twenty years. During her military service, she was diagnosed with hypertension. After her discharge, service-connection was established for hypertension. She was subsequently diagnosed with a heart condition. Service-connection for her heart condition may be established as secondary to the hypertension.
How can I get my VA claim or appeal processed faster?
The Veterans Administration currently has many claims pending for various types of benefits. Because of that, many veterans feel that their case might be overlooked or handled improperly.
Although the backlog of first-time disability compensation claims has been reduced dramatically from a high of more than 610,000 in 2012 to approximately 194,000 in 2015 it will still take a significant amount of time for the VA to process your claim and render a decision. The length of time that is needed can depend on many factors including the complexity of the claim and if the VA has all of the necessary medical evidence. To ensure that your claim is processed as expeditiously as possible, you may want to consider filing your claim electronically through the eBenefits.
While the number of pending disability claims has been reduced, the number of pending appeals or Notices of Disagreement (NOD) has increased sharply. At this time, it can take up to 3 years for a decision to be reached on an appeal or NOD.
The VA will not typically expedite the processing of any single claim. All claims are processed on a “first-in, first-out” basis. However, if you are experiencing a significant financial hardship such as a pending eviction or foreclosure, or repossession of your vehicle, the VA may consider a request to expedite your claim.
How do I request an upgrade of my discharge status or a correction in my military records?
The nature of your discharge can impact your ability to get veterans benefits or even find a job. Many veterans have successfully had their discharge corrected or changed. Each branch of the military, including the U.S. Coast Guard, has its own discharge review board. These boards have the authority to change or correct any discharge or dismissal from the service, unless it was the result of a general court martial. A discharge board has no authority to address medical discharges.
If you feel your discharge decision was not fair or did not consider all the facts in the case, you may request a discharge review. If you were discharged within the last 15 years, you may use a DoD Form 293, the Application for Review of Discharge or Separation from the Armed Forces of the United States, to request consideration of an upgrade.
If your discharge was more than 15 years ago, or if you are requesting a correction to your military records, you must complete DoD Form 149, the Application for Correction of Military Records.
My staff is always available to assist you with issues that you may be experiencing with your VA or military issues. If you cannot find the answer to your questions through the above links or would like my office to contact the Department of Veterans Affairs or Department of Defense on your behalf, please complete my Privacy Release Form and email it to: email@example.com. My staff will be happy to provide you with all possible assistance
Military Medics and Corpsmen (MMAC) Program
When an Army Medic, a Navy Corpsman, an Air Force Medical Technician or Coast Guard Health Services Technician leaves military service and enters civilian health care, their ID tags may change from dog tags to a hospital ID badge, but their mission stays the same:
- Having a rewarding career to support themselves or their family. . .
- Keeping their clinical skills scalpel-sharp . . .
- Continuing their medical education . . .
- Giving their very best to those in their care . . .
But without civilian credentials: the care can stop there.
The Virginia Department of Veterans Services, Military Medics and Corpsmen (MMAC) Program is changing the way healthcare hires veterans. MMAC is a pathway to employment for recently discharged veterans and transitioning service members. It’s an opportunity to apply hard-earned and at times battle-tested patient care skills under physician supervision while obtaining civilian medical credentials.
The program is the first of its kind in the nation and began accepting applications from U.S. military medics, corpsmen and technicians worldwide on December 1, 2016.
The MMAC staff will recruit and screen candidates and assist with job placement. The hiring decisions, scope of practice and potential educational opportunities are determined by our partner healthcare systems. MMAC does not grant licensure and certification or financial assistance. What MMAC does is open doors to potential employment and educational opportunities at our partner healthcare systems statewide.
MMAC addresses critical healthcare staffing shortages and boosts veteran hiring. Providing quality patient care while serving those who served our country: that’s multi-tasking at its best!
Virginia’s Military Medics and Corpsmen Program: a path to a career, credentials and continued caring.
Watch a brief MMAC video by clicking here.
For more information on the program, please contact:
Virginia Department of Veterans Services (VDVS)
(804) 482-8509 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Information Regarding the VA Home Loan
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) makes loan guaranties to service members, veterans, reservists and unmarried surviving spouses for the purchase of homes, condominiums, manufactured homes and for refinancing loans. The VA guaranties part of a total loan, permitting the purchaser to obtain a mortgage with a competitive interest rate, even without a down payment if the lender agrees. The VA requires that a down payment be made for the purchase of a manufactured home.
The VA also requires a down payment for a home or condo if the purchase price exceeds the reasonable value of the property, or if the loan has a graduated payment feature. With a VA guaranty, the lender is protected against loss up to the amount of the guaranty if the borrower fails to repay the loan. A VA loan guaranty can be used to:
- buy a home
- buy a residential condominium
- build a home
- repair, alter, or improve a home
- refinance an existing home loan
- buy a manufactured home with or without a lot
- buy and improve a manufactured home lot
- install a solar heating or cooling system or other weatherization improvements
- purchase and improve a home simultaneously with energy-efficient improvements
- refinance an existing VA loan to reduce the interest rate and make energy-efficient improvements
- refinance a manufactured home loan to acquire a lot
There are 5 steps to get a VA loan:
- Apply for a Certificate of Eligibility. A Veteran who doesn't have a certificate can obtain one by making application on VA Form 26-1880, Request for Determination of Eligibility and Available Loan Guaranty Entitlement, along with proof of military service to:
VA Loan Eligibility Center
PO Box 20729
Winston-Salem, NC 27120
For overnight delivery:
VA Loan Eligibility Center
251 N. Main Street
Winston-Salem, NC 27155
- Decide on a home the buyer wants to buy and sign a purchase agreement.
- Order an appraisal from VA. (This is usually done by lender.)
- Apply to a mortgage lender for the loan. While the appraisal is being done, the lender can be gathering credit and income information. If the lender is authorized by the VA to do automatic processing, upon receipt of the appraised value determination, the loan can be approved and closed without waiting for VA review of the credit application. For loans that must first be approved by VA, the lender will send the application to the local VA office, which will notify the lender of its decision.
- Close of loan and you move in!
For any other questions please visit the VA home page:
Virginia Department of Veterans Services Benefits Offices…
There are Benefits Offices all over the state of Virginia. These program helps all veterans with any and all questions regarding the VA, they are the VA experts.
Virginia Department of Veterans Services
What we do:
The Virginia Department of Veterans Services advocates for Virginia veterans and connects them to benefits and services they have earned. Information on current federal, state and local veterans’ programs, entitlements and referral services is available in Virginia through a network of 28 (soon to be 30) benefit service offices. All services are provided free of charge.
We can help with:
- Health Benefits
- Disability Compensation
- VA Pension
- Survivor Benefits
- Home Loan Guarantees
- Education Benefits
Who we serve:
Eligibility for most federal and state benefits is based on discharge from active military service under other than dishonorable conditions. Veterans who served as a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp, Coast Guard, or as a commissioned officer of the public health service, the Environmental Services Administration, or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and their dependents are eligible. Current and former members of the selected reserve may be eligible for certain benefits, such as home loan guarantees and education, if they meet time-in-service and other criteria. Men and women veterans with similar service are entitled to the same federal and state veteran’s benefits.
Veterans Choice Program
What is it?
Provides eligible veterans the option to receive VA Community Care from approved providers in their own communities.
- Local VA medical facility is unable to schedule your appointment within 30 days of clinically indicate date or your preferred date
- Nearest VA medical facility is more than 40 miles from current residence
- Must travel by air, boat, or ferry to reach closest VA medical facility
- Inability to travel to nearest VA medical facility due to geographic constraints
- VA must be unable to provide necessary specialty care
Need a ride to the nearest VA?
Use the DAV Hospital Service Coordinator Directory to contact your nearest HSC for information or assistance.
DAV operates a fleet of vehicles around the country to provide free transportation to VA medical facilities for injured and ill veterans. DAV stepped in to help veterans get the care they need when the federal government terminated its program that helped many of them pay for transportation to and from medical facilities. The vans are driven by volunteers, and the rides coordinated by almost 190 Hospital Service Coordinators around the country.
DAV Departments and Chapters, along with our long-time partner Ford Motor Company, have purchased 3,286 vehicles at a cost of more than $73.1 million, that have been donated to Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers nationwide since the program began in 1987 to ensure that injured or ill veterans are able to get to their medical appointments.
To find out whether there is a van near you use the DAV Hospital Service Coordinator Directory to contact your nearest HSC for information or assistance. Please remember that the DAV Transportation Network is staffed by volunteers; therefore, it is unable to cover every community. We hope we can help you.
Veterans History Project
The United States Congress created the Veterans History Project in 2000. This project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. If you are interested in learning more, or if you would like to share your story, please click here.
My office is always available to help you with addressing issues you may be having with Veterans Affairs. If you would like for my office to assist you, please complete my privacy release form and send it to the relevant local office.
Casework is handled in my district offices and is assigned according to location.
Hanover/Mechanicsville District Office
6501 Mechanicsville Turnpike
Mechanicsville, VA 23111
(804) 730-6595 – telephone; (804) 730-6597 – fax
Localities served: Caroline County (except for Port Royal area), Hanover County, James City County, King William County, and King and Queen County.
Stafford District Office
95 Dunn Drive
Stafford, VA 22556
(540) 659-2734 – telephone; (540) 659-2737 – fax
Localities served: City of Fredericksburg, Fauquier County, King George County, Prince William County, Spotsylvania County and Stafford County.
Tappahannock District Office
508 Church Lane (P.O. Box 3106)
Tappahannock, VA 22560
(804) 443-0668 – telephone; (804) 443-0671 – fax
Localities served: Caroline County (Port Royal area only), Essex County, Gloucester County, Lancaster County, Mathews County, Middlesex County, Northumberland County, Richmond County and Westmoreland County.