The VA estimates that it takes an average of 175 days to gather evidence for a standard VA disability benefits claim.
In contrast, the FDC form outlines the evidence that you need to submit. Usually, this is private treatment records. The veteran also notifies the VA precisely where other federal records exists, such as those with VA Medical Centers or the Social Security Administration. Depending on the type of military service, you may need to also assist in locating your service records.
What are the pros and cons of using the FDC process?
The main advantage of the FDC system is a speedy resolution. Data shows the FDC process can cut the time to a decision by half – which on average, means a decision coming in less than four months, instead of the standard eight-month time.
Some of the pilot programs were showing 90-day decision windows, outside of any delays caused by waiting for more records outside the VA’s control. The pilot program in Chicago showed great results. Chicago reported that, “By 2010, 25 percent of FDC claims were rated in 69 days, and half were decided in 115 days. These are good results.”
VA regional officers say the FDC involves veterans more in the process, and gives them more control over their claim. Using the FDC process is not intended to affect the quality of care or level of benefits received. It is simply a method to speed up claim review.
Early evidence suggests use of a FDC may also reduce the appeals rate. The FDC also provides an option to request a reconsideration after a decision, and a chance to submit more evidence before needing to go to the appeal stage.
There don’t appear to be active negatives reported. If anything bumps you out of the FDC process, your claim may just be put back in the standard processing pool. This could happen if, for example, your claim ends up requiring the VA’s assistance for more than just ordering federal records or medical exams; or if it’s determined more documents are needed. You can also drop out of the FDC process at any time and have your claim move through the standard processing procedures.
The Fully Developed Claim process currently applies only to the initial application for VA disability benefits, or secondary and increased disability service connection claims. The VA is testing an expedited appeals process.
According to Cat Trombley, a Public Affairs Specialist with the VBA, the perfect way to utilize the FDC program is to make use of the checklist. As veterans, Trombley maintains that a veteran may be precondition to accept and embrace the idea of using a simple checklist to make sense of the process and what is needed.
Follow the checklist below to make sure you submit the right type of evidence for your compensation FDC claim. If you have questions about what is relevant, call VA at 1-800-827-1000 or contact your VSO.
1. Identify Federal Records, if any (not all of these may apply to your claim):
- If you received VA medical care, tell us where and when.
- Tell us if you receive Social Security benefits for a service-related disability.
- Tell us where your Military Treatment or Personnel Records are, if you know, or where your last duty station was.
- Identify any other relevant records in the custody of a federal agency, like federal worker’s compensation (OWCP) or the Public Health Service
If you have a copy of your Military Treatment or Personnel records, or records from other federal agencies, save time by submitting them with your claim by uploading them to eBenefits. If not, VA will go get them, but this will slow down the claim.
2. Gather Records (not all of these may apply to your claim):
- If your private doctor is treating you for a service-related disability, get a copy of those records.
- If you don’t believe the incident is recorded in you military records, get statements from you, your friends or family explaining in detail why you should be service connected.