Can a VA disability compensation claim be filed without the veteran having all of the standard necessary documentation? Often when a veteran’s service history includes Special Operations or mission details that are deemed “Classified” that documentation may be recorded vaguely on their DD Form 214. Additionally a “Classified” status may also interfere with a veteran’s ability to use awards or decorations received as evidence when filing a claim.
Under this scenario, a veteran was a member of a Reserve Component that deployed with an active duty Special Operations unit. The veteran was injured during deployment and continues to suffer from severe, long-lasting health conditions that often interfere with the performance of normal daily activities.
The answer to the question on filing without documentation is, “Yes.”
Veterans should not delay in filing a claim for disability compensation — even if all the paperwork or acknowledgement is unavailable for Special Operations or Classified missions. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has specific procedures to assist raters in verifying information relative to claims involving Special Operations incidents and Classified missions.
Publicly available at www.knowva.ebenefits.va.gov, the “M21-1 Adjudication Procedures Manual, M21-1, Part IV, Subpart ii, Chapter 1, Section I, Topic 5 – Developing claims based on participation in Special Operations Incidents,” is a good source of information.
Whether through available documentation (or as an alternative, through personal and buddy statements) the following list is the type of information the veteran should submit with a claim for disability compensation:
- Branch of Service, Component, Unit of Assignment
- Where to find the information: on the DD214 or other official documents
- Unit temporarily assigned/detailed/attached to for the deployment and/or mission (if different, provide full details and briefly explain)
- Where to find the information: on travel orders or other documents, unless classified. Got a copy of an order that says ‘classified’ in the space where information is usually provided? Include a copy with the claim.
- Tour dates (of deployment and/or mission)
- Location (city/province and country) where the incident occurred that resulted in the veteran’s injuries
- The approximate date of the incident (within a 60-day range)
- MOS/Occupational Specialty
- Whether the operation was classified
- A brief description of the incident
- Whether the incident was classified
- Details of the incident that resulted in injuries
Include all available medical evidence (military or civilian), such as:
- Confirmation that an injury occurred in service, or
- Whether symptoms (or a health condition or disease) occurred in service, or
- Whether symptoms occurred within one year of discharge
- Description of injury, health condition or disease
- If medically evacuated (medevac) or otherwise removed from the mission
- Symptoms/diagnosis/treatment – including diagnostic testing, surgeries, hospital admissions
- Follow up treatment – outpatient, inpatient
- Current disabilities resulting from deployment/mission/incident
Building a strong case for VA disability compensation requires the claim to clearly convey the “who, what, when, where, now what” of the veteran’s story. This story can be told through a combination of forms, personnel records, service treatment records, civilian medical records, personal statements, and buddy statements.
VetsHQ can help. Start by viewing the three required elements of a service-connected disability.
If additional assistance is needed, email questions to our Help Desk at VetsHQhelpdesk@vetshq.com.