|I am honored to represent a district with a significant veteran and military population and have made the protection and enhancement of the benefits you have earned one of my highest priorities.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is responsible for processing many different types of claims for benefits including educational benefits, disability claims, the Veterans Choice Program, burial benefits, aid and attendance or survivor programs, among others. The VA website contains information on many of these programs including how to apply for benefits.
My office is often contacted by constituents who are seeking assistance with their VA benefits, copies of military and medical records, receipt of military awards, and many other related issues. Below is a list of some of the most common questions I receive:
How can I get a copy of my military records (discharge, medical, etc.)?
Most military records are stored at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Click here for additional information on requesting copies of your military records.
How can I get the medals I was awarded during my service but never received, or copies of medals that have been lost or destroyed?
Military medals are also an issue handled primarily through the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. You may be able to request medals online. Please note that there may be a fee for replacement of medals in some circumstances.
In many cases, it may be faster to get medals if you work through a congressional office. If you are owed medals from your service, or are the next-of-kin requesting medals for a family member, just fill out this Privacy Release Form and email it to: firstname.lastname@example.org or fax it to the number on the form. Once this information is received, my office will be in touch with you regarding any other paperwork that might be required in order to send the request to the proper officials.
How can I get my VA claim or appeal processed faster?
Although the backlog of first-time disability compensation claims has been reduced dramatically from a high of more than 610,000 in 2012 to approximately 194,000 in 2015 it will still take a significant amount of time for the VA to process your claim and render a decision. The length of time that is needed can depend on many factors including the complexity of the claim and if the VA has all of the necessary medical evidence. To ensure that your claim is processed as expeditiously as possible, you may want to consider filing your claim electronically through the eBenefits.
While the number of pending disability claims has been reduced, the number of pending appeals or Notices of Disagreement (NOD) has increased sharply. At this time, it can take up to 3 years for a decision to be reached on an appeal or NOD.
The VA will not typically expedite the processing of any single claim. All claims are processed on a “first-in, first-out” basis. However, if you are experiencing a significant financial hardship such as a pending eviction or foreclosure, or repossession of your vehicle, the VA may consider a request to expedite your claim.
How do I request an upgrade of my discharge status or a correction in my military records?
The nature of your discharge can impact your ability to get veterans benefits or even find a job. Many veterans have successfully had their discharge corrected or changed. Each branch of the military, including the U.S. Coast Guard, has its own discharge review board. These boards have the authority to change or correct any discharge or dismissal from the service, unless it was the result of a general court martial. A discharge board has no authority to address medical discharges.
If you feel your discharge decision was not fair or did not consider all the facts in the case, you may request a discharge review. If you were discharged within the last 15 years, you may use a DoD Form 293, the Application for Review of Discharge or Separation from the Armed Forces of the United States, to request consideration of an upgrade.
If your discharge was more than 15 years ago, or if you are requesting a correction to your military records, you must complete DoD Form 149, the Application for Correction of Military Records.
My staff is always available to assist you with issues that you may be experiencing with your VA or military issues. If you cannot find the answer to your questions through the above links or would like my office to contact the Department of Veterans Affairs or Department of Defense on your behalf, please complete my online Privacy Release Form. My staff will be happy to provide you with all possible assistance.