If you have an illness or injury that you believe was caused—or made worse—by your active-duty service, you can file a claim for disability benefits 180 to 90 days before you leave the military. This may help speed up the claim decision process so you can get your benefits sooner. Find out how to file a claim through the Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) program—and what to do if you have less than 90 days left on active duty.
Can I use the BDD program to get my disability benefits sooner?
You can use the BDD program if all of these are true for you:
- You’re a Servicemember on full-time active duty (including a member of the National Guard, Reserve, or Coast Guard), and
- You have a known separation date, and
- Your separation date is in the next 180 to 90 days
What if I have less than 90 days left on active duty?
You can’t file a BDD claim or add more medical conditions to your initial claim. But you can still begin the process of filing your claim before discharge.
Learn how to file a claim less than 90 days before discharge.
Are there any other reasons I can’t use the BDD program?
You can’t use the BDD program if your claim requires special handling—even if you’re on full-time active duty, with more than 90 days left of service.
You can’t use the BDD program if you:
- Need case management for a serious injury or illness, or
- Have suffered the loss of a body part, or
- Are terminally ill, or
- Are waiting to be discharged while being treated at a VA hospital or other military treatment facility, or
- Need to have a VA exam done in a foreign country (except if the exam can be requested by the overseas BDD office in either Landstuhl, Germany, or Yongsan, Korea), or
- Are pregnant, or
- Are waiting for us to determine your Character of Discharge, or
- Can’t go to a VA exam during the 45 day period after you submit your claim, or
- Didn’t submit copies of your treatment records for your current period of service, or
- Added a medical condition to your original claim when you had less than 90 days left on active duty (Note: We’ll process the added conditions after your discharge.)
What kind of disability benefits can I get?
Compensation (monthly payments)
How do I apply for disability benefits before I leave the service?
Choose the scenario below that matches your situation to find out how to apply for disability benefits before discharge.
If you have 180 to 90 days left on active duty, you’ll need to apply for benefits through the BDD program. The application process depends on where you’re stationed.
If you’re stationed in the U.S.
You can apply for benefits online, by mail, or in person.
Learn more about how to apply for benefits.
To complete the process, you’ll need to:
- Submit your service treatment records along with your application, and
- Be available for 45 days from the date you apply for a VA medical exam, and
- Finish all phases of the VA/DoD medical separation examination process before your release from the military
If you’re stationed overseas
Depending on where you’re stationed, you can start your claim at a BDD office or through the “Fly-in” claim process, which lets you apply by fax or email before your in-person appointment.
Find out how to apply overseas.
Need help applying?
If you’re on a military base or other installation, contact your local Transition Assistance Office or ACAP Center (Army only) to make an appointment to attend a VA benefits briefing. At this briefing, you’ll learn how to start your claim. You can also call us toll-free at 1-800-827-1000.
If you have less than 90 days left on active duty, you have 2 options for filing a disability claim:
Go through the Decision Ready Claim (DRC) program
This is the fastest way to get your claim processed. You’ll work with an accredited Veterans Service Organization (VSO) to file your claim. A VSO is a private nonprofit group that serves as an advocate for Veterans and Servicemembers as well as their dependents and survivors. With your VSO’s help, you can get a decision within 30 days.
To file a claim through the DRC program, you’ll need to:
- Appoint and work with an accredited VSO, and
- Gather all relevant and required evidence (documents like doctor’s reports and medical test results) to support your claim, and
- Attend a VA claim exam, if needed, before filing your claim. Your VSO will schedule this exam for you.
Note: You can’t use the DRC program if you’re enrolled in the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) or if you have more than 90 days left on active duty. There are also other factors that may exclude you from this program.
Learn about the IDES program.
See the full list of DRC program exclusions.
For more information on the DRC program:
Call our toll-free hotline at 1-800-827-1000.
Watch a video and download fact sheets at VA.gov.
Visit VA.gov for more DRC information.
Or contact your local VSO.
Find a VSO.
File a fully developed or standard claim
The difference in these claim types is based on how you gather evidence (supporting documents like a doctor’s report and medical test results) to support your claim.
Learn about the application process.
Find out what evidence you need for fully developed and standard claims.
If you’re wounded, injured, or fall ill while serving and can’t perform your duties, you’ll be referred to IDES. Through this system, we at VA work together with the Department of Defense (DoD) to make disability evaluation seamless, simple, fast, and fair.
If you’re found to be medically unfit for duty, IDES will give you a proposed VA disability rating before you leave the service. You’ll also be entitled to Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) services.
Find out how to access VR&E services through IDES.