When you file a disability claim with the VA, you can choose from two options. The first option is a standard claim, where the VA helps you collect the records and documents that make up your claim. The other option is a fully developed claim, where you compile all the supporting documents yourself and submit them to the VA as a package. The benefit of submitting a fully developed claim is that the VA may review your claim more quickly, allowing you to receive benefits sooner.
According to the VA, you can submit a fully developed claim if you meet these criteria:
- Your claim is for an illness or injury that was caused by or aggravated by your active-duty service, OR
- Your claim is for a condition that was caused or aggravated by a disability the VA has already determined is service-connected
What Forms Do You Need for a Fully Developed Claim?
When you submit a fully developed claim, you will need to use the Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits (VA Form 21-526EZ ). You can print out a hard copy or use the online version of the claim form. The form has extensive instructions attached to explain how to fill it out. You will need to include comprehensive information about yourself and your time in the service. In addition, you will need to provide supporting evidence of your disability.
What Other Evidence Do I Need for a Fully Developed Claim?
The VA specifies that supporting evidence should include:
- All private medical records related to the claimed condition (doctor’s notes, X-rays, medical tests from non-VA facilities).
- Records of medical treatment for the claimed condition while you were serving in the military.
- Military personnel records related to the claimed condition.
- The VA can request information about any related health records from a federal facility like a VA medical center or clinic.
- Support letters from family members, friends, clergy members, law enforcement personnel, or those you served with to verify information about your claimed condition.
In addition to the evidence that supports your claim, you will need to certify that there is no more evidence that the VA would need to review your claim. The VA may also ask you to get a medical exam at a VA facility. You must attend this appointment if it’s required.
What If the VA Wants More Evidence After I Submit My Fully Developed Claim?
If it turns out that the VA needs more evidence from non-federal sources for your claim, you will not be penalized. They will simply process your application as a standard claim and request the records they need. You will not need to start over or resubmit the information you have already sent to the VA. It will not affect the final decision about your benefits.
You have up to one year to complete your application, starting from the day you begin it. Benefits will be paid from the start date of your application, not just from the date of approval.
How Soon Will the VA Process My Fully Developed Claim?
The VA publishes information about average claims processing times. As of October 2022, the average time for a ruling on a fully developed claim is 124 days or about four months. Standard claims take an average of 144 days or about five months.
Claims may be processed more quickly than on average. Three to four months is considered normal for fully developed claims.