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Claim Types and When to File

Find out when you can first file a claim for service-connected benefits—and what to do if you want to request more benefits or have new evidence to support a claim we denied in the past.

  • We refer to the first claim you file for a disability as your original claim.

    You can file a claim up to 180 days before leaving the service:

    • If you have 180-90 days left on active duty, you may be able to file a pre-discharge claim through the Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) program. This may help speed up the claim decision process so you can get your benefits sooner.
      Find out how to file a pre-discharge claim.

    • If you have less than 90 days left on active duty, you can’t file your claim through the BDD program. But you can still file before you’re discharged, and your claim will be processed after separation as a fully developed or standard claim.
      Learn more about gathering evidence for standard and fully developed claims.

    You can also file a claim for a disability that appears after discharge:

    This is called a postservice claim. There’s no time limit on filing a postservice claim. But you should know that the process may become more complex the longer you wait.

    Learn more about disabilities that may be related to your active-duty service but may not appear until after you’ve left the military:


    Find out how to apply for disability benefits.

  • You can file a special claim to request compensation for special needs.

    These may include needs like:

    • A specially equipped vehicle if your service-connected disability prevents you from driving, or
    • Temporary payments if you’re recovering from surgery or other treatment and unable to move, or
    • Increased payments if you can’t work because of your service-connected disability

    Learn more about special claims.

    Find out how to apply for disability benefits.

  • You can file a reopened claim if you meet all of the requirements listed below.

    All of these must be true:

    • We denied your claim at least 1 or more years ago, and
    • You didn’t file an appeal at that time, and
    • You have new and material evidence (new supporting documents like a doctor’s report or medical test results) that we haven’t seen before and that’s directly related to your claim

    For example, you might file a reopened claim if you were treated for pain in your elbow while on active duty, but you were denied disability benefits because your VA health exam didn’t find a problem. Then 2 years later, an X-ray of your elbow showed signs of arthritis (a painful swelling and sometimes wearing down of a joint). In this case, you would need to send your new exam and X-ray results to us as new evidence related to the claim.

    Find out how to apply for disability benefits.

  • You can file a new claim to request:

    • More financial support
    • Special monthly payments
    • A shift to Individual Unemployability status (a status given to Veterans who are unable to work because of a disability)
      Learn more about Individual Unemployability.

    Our decision on your new claim will be based only on new evidence (like a doctor’s report or medical test results) that you give us to support your claim. We won’t consider any evidence you may have given us related to past claims.

    Find out how to apply for disability benefits.

  • You can file a secondary claim to get more disability benefits for a new disability that’s linked to a service-connected disability you already have.

    For example, you might file a secondary claim if you:

    • Develop arthritis that’s caused by a service-connected knee injury you got while on active duty, or
    • Develop heart disease that’s caused by the high blood pressure you were diagnosed with while on active duty and that we’d previously concluded was connected to your service

    Find out how to apply for disability benefits.