Active-duty military service members may wish to file a pre-discharge claim to speed up the process of receiving VA disability compensation benefits. VA disability benefits are available to any past service members of the armed forces who have an illness or injury that affects their mind or body, and in some cases, this benefit may be passed to a surviving spouse as well. VA benefits are also available to veterans who have served in the National Guard or Reserves, with certain exceptions.
- Know Your Separation Date
- File Your Disability Claim Between 90-180 Days Before Separation
- Be Available for Medical Examinations After Filing
- Have a Copy of Your Service Treatment Record
There are some basic requirements you must meet to qualify for the VA pre-discharge claim and eventually receive compensation, but they are all predicated on being assigned a disability rating from the VA. This rating is a percentage from 0% to 100% that indicates your level of need based on the severity of your disability, which affects the dollar amount of your monthly payments. Because this process can be lengthy and complex, the VA has designed programs like VA-pre-discharge claims to facilitate smoother transitions.
A pre-discharge claim is a term that’s often used interchangeably with the Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD), although BDD is actually the name of the program that manages these claims. The BDD program is run through the Department of Veterans Affairs and is intended to help veterans obtain authorization for any disability compensation before their actual date of discharge.
The BDD and other benefits for veterans are designed to help those who have served our country after successfully completing active duty service. By applying before the end of your military service, the VA has more time to schedule any necessary interviews, appointments, or medical evaluations that will need to be done before you’re approved. By doing this, veterans often find there is little to no lag time between their date of discharge and receiving confirmation of their disability claim. Many veterans can begin receiving payments on the same day they are discharged, which dramatically reduces the stress and uncertainty that the transition to non-military life can bring.
Please note that these claims must be made between 90 and 180 days before discharge to be eligible for BDD. If you are outside of this window, you can still pursue disability benefits but they will not be through the BDD program.
The BDD program helps provide essential VA health benefits for men and women as they transition to civilian life. The eligibility requirements for applying for this discharge program are fairly straightforward, but since the application window is fairly narrow, it’s essential you stay organized and on top of dates and deadlines.
There are a number of exceptions that you need to be aware of that may restrict you from using the BDD. For all applicants, here are the four basic requirements you’ll need to meet:
Although this is one of the easiest of the four requirements, if you don’t have a set discharge date, you cannot file a pre-discharge claim. If your date of separation is not yet known or if it has changed, this will affect your application.
Since you only have a 90-day window to file your pre-discharge claim, it’s best to start as close to the 180-day mark as you can. 90 days may sound like a lot of time, but you will likely be busy with many other tasks as you prepare to transition to civilian life. If you miss this window, you will have to go through other (usually more involved) channels to seek your VA disability compensation.
By filing as early as possible, but still within the eligibility window, you can ensure there is enough time to request documents, troubleshoot complications, or undergo any disability evaluations that may be ordered for your file. Additionally, you may want to start gathering documentation before the 180 days so you can submit a complete VA claim as soon as possible.
All applicants must present sufficient medical documentation in order to receive a VA disability rating. Since you will likely be examined in a VA facility, be sure to schedule enough time for medical appointments after you submit your BDD claim.
Depending on where you are currently stationed, you should be available to visit a VA facility for 45 days after you submit your BDD claim. This can be especially important for those service members who are stationed overseas, as there are only two non-U.S. bases where these examinations can take place: Landstuhl, Germany, and Camp Humphreys, Korea. If you are not at one of the overseas bases, you might not qualify for a pre-discharge disability claim.
You should take the time before you file your claim to gather all relevant medical documentation related to your disability. Without this, the VA is unable to deem the disability as service-connected and won’t be able to assign you a disability rating.
By locating these documents ahead of time, you can be sure that if any problems do take place after you submit your claim that there will be time to rectify them and this time won’t be spent hunting down past medical or service treatment records. This can be especially relevant if you’ve served for many years and the injury that resulted in your disability was several years prior.
With a pre-discharge claim, there are a number of VA disability benefits available to veterans. Veterans have easier access to military documents, since waiting till after separation increases the risk that papers can get lost or records will be harder to find. Documentation is much easier to track down while on active duty since the injury is more recent and it’s easier to follow up and address any complications.
For those who’ve sustained injuries resulting in a disability, the most significant benefit of lining this up ahead of time is that you’ll start receiving your disability payments immediately upon separation. There won’t be a lag time from when you’re discharged to when you begin civilian life.
Another benefit of the BDD program is that you can get all your medical evaluations completed before you leave. Unfortunately, many veterans exiting the military often don’t undergo a proper medical examination for a disability claim while they’re still serving. Scheduling doctor appointments and gathering medical evidence becomes more difficult once you leave service. In some cases, this can lead to months or years of delays getting their payments. Since many vets don’t know this will happen, you should take it upon yourself to apply for the BDD program if you know they have a disability and are still on active duty.
There are many ways a service member is not eligible to apply to the BDD program. This is true even if they have a valid service-connected disability. The first thing to do is make sure you meet the four main criteria. One of the most common causes for ineligibility is that a service member is currently stationed overseas and won’t be able to attend a VA-approved examination.
Those who are terminally ill, have an illness that prevents them from performing their daily duties, are pregnant, hospitalized, or in a military treatment center may not seek a VA disability claim through this discharge program. Additionally, there are certain disabilities, such as the loss of a limb, that preclude you from using the BDD program.
Please note that these factors don’t mean that you won’t qualify for disability compensation, it just means that you will have to apply at another time or through a different program. The conditions would all require special handling and cannot go through the regular channels of the BDD program.
For most people, you can submit your application and all your supporting documents through your VA.gov account. It’s important to have all documentation ready ahead of time, though what exactly you need can vary depending on your circumstances.
Gather all health care and military records that relate to your disability, including your current service treatment record, mental records, or dental records if applicable. You also need to provide basic personal information like your Social Security number, birth certificates, or a marriage certificate, as well as direct deposit information and a completed DD Form 214.
If you want to apply by mail or fax, complete VA Form 21-526EZ along with any other relevant paperwork and fax it to 844-531-7818 if you’re inside the U.S., or 248-524-4260 if you’re outside the U.S.
You can also mail it to the following address:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444
If you have less than 90 days left in your service, you cannot use the BDD program and can instead file either a fully developed claim or standard claim as you would if you had already been discharged.
The VA is committed to working for the country’s veterans to help with all aspects of their well-being. The VA currently oversees multiple veteran benefits from securing a VA loan to buy a home, pension programs, job training, counseling, education benefits, and disability services. If you are on active service but know your discharge date, you should explore your options of submitting a pre-discharge claim before your date of separation if you think you may qualify for a VA disability rating.
As your service period comes to an end, take the time to organize your medical and service records, and submit your application as close to 180 out from your date of separation as possible. The claims process will go faster since you are still active in the military, and any medical files the VA needs to confirm your eligibility will be easier to access. VA compensation like this can ensure the needs of disabled veterans are taken care of as soon as they are discharged.