Tips & Tools

  • Determining if you qualify for Non-Service Connected Disability Benefits – This questionnaire will help to determine eligibility
  • How to Request a copy of your DD 214 (Military Discharge/Separation Papers.
    All claims for veterans’ benefits start with the Veteran’s discharge or separation papers known as DD 214. These documents are needed to prove that you are a veteran or were married to an eligible veteran and the discharge was other than “dishonorable”.

Don’t have a copy of your separation paper

You can request a copy of your separation papers by:

1. Completing Form  SF 180 and mailing the form to the VA.

2. Click here to request a copy online.

3. You can also check to see if the documents are registered at the County Recorder’s office where you live.

You have the original Discharge Papers The VA requires a certified copy of the DD 214.  You can request a copy from the VA ( Steps 1 & 2 above) or take the original to your local courthouse for certification as a “true copy.”  (It is never a good idea to send the original discharge papers to the VA, because you run the risk of them getting lost or not returned.)

Other personal documents that are filed with an initial claim:

  • A copy of veteran’s death certificate (if you are a surviving spouse).
  • A copy of the annual Social Security Benefit Statement for the claimant.
  • If filing for Veteran and Spouse send copies of both husband and wife statements.
  • If married more than once,  provide pertinent information on previous marriages (to whom, when, date of marriage, date marriage ended, and how it ended) for both veteran and/or spouse.


  •  Click here  for the address of the Pension Management Center that services your area.


Why are so many claims denied?

The VA’s own website ( confirms that 75% of all VA pension applications are denied the first time.  Is this a conspiracy by the VA?  Does the VA have a “quota” for approvals?  Are they trying to save federal money?  Do they know the proper regulations?

The fact of the matter is, VA applications for pension are disapproved because they are not complete and well-documented.  I hope the following 5 reasons for denial will help you understand the VA process:

# 5: Missing or Incomplete Information. The VA pension applications are multiple-paged and have hundreds of questions.  Address and answer every single one of them.  If the question is non-applicable, answer “N/A”; if income is zero, answer with a “0″. NEVER, EVER leave a space blank.

# 4: Failure to Respond to Clarifications.  Always answer VA letters or phone calls as soon as possible.  If you need more time, send a letter saying “I’m working on it”.  You have at least 60 days to respond and can supply the information within one year and still have a valid claim.

# 3: Documenting Dependents.  According to the VA, a “dependent” is younger than 18, where the veteran is the father, or the veteran is married to the mother (step-children are fine).  Grandparents must have court-issued adoption decrees.  If dependents are under 23- years- old, they must be in school full-time.  Spouses are dependents, but their income also counts, as well as their Unreimbursed Medical Expenses.

# 2: Documenting Shortfalls.  If your Unreimbursed Medical Expenses, especially your Room & Board (R&B), exceed your income, the VA will ALWAYS delay your claim to clarify this.  So, anticipate this question!  If you are using savings or assets to meet this shortfall every month, explain this as an attachment to your application.  If your assets are depleted, and a friend, sibling or family member is supplementing your R&B, explain this.  To be sure the VA understands what is happening, write a simple loan agreement and submit it with your application.  This will prove that you are borrowing this shortfall every month.

And Finally, # 1: Failure to Document Income and Unreimbursed Medical Expenses.  On the application, the VA can ONLY confirm the amount of your Social Security benefits independently.  Everything else should be documented with a written explanation, this year’s award letter or an annuity agreement.  When in doubt, document it.  Unreimbursed Medical Expenses should be documented on the VA form 21-8416.  If you have any other recurring, ongoing or continuous Unreimbursed Medical Expenses (including R&B), document them!

With the VA, you can never provide too much information.  If they have to write you for clarification, your claim will be delayed or denied.  Always include your phone numbers, an email address and a next-of-kin’s contact information with every application.

 Other things you should know:

1. The claimant must sign the application.  This would be the Veteran if he/she is still alive.  In the event the Veteran has passed away, the claimant would be the surviving spouse and required to sign the application paperwork. The Department of Veteran Affairs does not recognize state appointed POA (Power of Attorney) or Guardianship and the person functioning in this capacity is not able to sign for the claimant.

2.  There are many forms that need to be completed and attention must be focused on the details.  Never write “see attached” on the Provider Report or Physician’s Form.  In the case of a Provider Report ask the person completing the the paperwork to write out the services they provide in the space provided. The MD should also fill the VA 21-2680 in it’s entirety.

3.  If the MD states in his report that there is any type of memory issues and/or also indicates in Question #27 that the claimant is unable to handle their own financial affairs,  this likely would trigger an appointment of a federal fiduciary which can take several months.  Three important things to remember are:

a.  The handling of financial is based on the claimant’s ability to understand where their money comes from  using the money to pay bills, etc.  It is the the physical act of writing checks or making deposits due the the inability to drive to the bank or handwriting affected by such diseases as Parkinson’s.    Please ask the MD to answer this question carefully.

b.  If the claimant has a diagnosis related to memory impairment such as Alzheimer’s ask the physician to list this diagnosis last in Section 10 on the VA form 21-2680.   This will ensure that the VA person working with the claim will read the entire list of diagnoses.

c.  If there is a diagnosis that indicates there will be a need for appointment of a federal fiduciary, be proactive and ask that the person managing the claimant’s affairs be appointed and send the request in with the formal application paperwork.

4.  It is strongly recommended that you seek advice and guidance form a VA Accredited Professional prior to filing a claim for benefits.  This professional knows bot VA law and Medicaid rules and can keep your loved one out of harm’s way and avoid any future conflicts in the event the claimant must file for Medicaid.  This is one area where Veteran Service Officers fall short.