Veterans Services FAQs

I am serving on active duty now. When should I submit my claim?

Active duty servicemembers are encouraged to submit their claim 90-180 days before their discharge date. If this window is missed, servicemembers are encouraged to submit their claim as soon as possible.

I separated from active duty, but I’m continuing my service as a reservist. Do I need to wait until I retire from the reserves to submit my claim?

No. Reservists with active duty time (i.e., a DD 214) should not wait to submit their claim for any injuries or illnesses related to their active duty service. However, reservists should speak to their VSO representative to understand how their drill pay may be impacted by any disability compensation received.

I retired/separated from service several years ago. Is it too late for me to submit my claim?

It is never too late to submit a claim for injuries or illnesses related to active duty service. Contact a Navy Mutual VSO representative for assistance.

How do I prove that my illness or injury was related to my active duty service?

The VA will look to three key factors to determine whether your injuries or illnesses are related to service, including:

  • A current disability (generally, a diagnosis is required)
  • An in-service injury, illness, or event (typically evidenced by service treatment records, an after-action report, documented exposure to an environmental hazard such as aircraft engine noise or Agent Orange, or other official documents)
  • A connection between the disability and service (typically referred to as a “nexus” by VA, this means there is a link between your current disability and the injury, illness, or event from your service; a nexus is most easily established through a medical opinion from your doctor)

What do I need to submit a claim for VA disability compensation?

You will need to submit the appropriate claims forms and evidence. Typically, you should submit the following:

  • VA Form 21-526EZ Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits
  • DD Form 214 Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty
  • Evidence supporting your claim: Generally, evidence includes service treatment records, after action reports related to in-service injuries or events, and any post-service medical records that document treatment for the claimed condition.

If you have questions on how to file your claim, reach out to a Navy Mutual VSO representative for assistance.

I served in the National Guard/Reserves. Can I submit a claim for disability compensation or pension?

Maybe. All National Guard and Reserve members qualify for some VA benefits. Different VA benefits may consider different factors to determine eligibility, such as length of service, type of service (e.g., under Title 10 or Title 32), wartime service, and/or service-related disability. Contact a Navy Mutual VSO representative for more information.

How do I enroll in VA Healthcare?

To access free VA mental health services right away, call or walk into any VA medical center anytime, day or night.

To enroll in VA Healthcare, confirm your eligibility based on your active duty service dates and type of discharge, then provide necessary documentation and submit with completed application. The VA will contact you to let you know if you’ve been approved.

Note that enrolling in VA Healthcare is not the same as submitting a claim for disability and vice versa. These benefits have separate application processes.

Are my dependents covered by VA Healthcare?

In most cases, no. However, if your dependents have a health concern that is related to your service, care for those concerns may be covered in certain circumstances. Additionally, dependents of a veteran who has been rated permanently and totally disabled for service-connected disabilities or a veteran whose death is service-connected may be able to get health insurance through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA). Contact a Navy Mutual VSO representative for more information.

I don’t have any disabilities from service. Can I use the VA for my healthcare?

If your service meets the requirements, you are eligible to use the VA for healthcare. However, the VA may assign you a higher priority group number and you may be asked to pay a copay.

How do I claim benefits as a survivor?

Your benefits as a survivor are not a continuation of the veteran’s disability compensation. You must apply for benefits in your own right.

Benefits for you as a survivor are based on your veteran’s service and depend on several factors such as whether their death was service-connected, the nature of your relationship to them, and, in the case of Survivors Pension, your income and assets.

Note that you cannot claim both Dependency and Indemnity Compensation and Survivor’s Pension. The VA will pay the higher of the two benefits.

To make the claim, you must submit:

  • The appropriate VA Claim form (dependent on the benefit sought and the nature of your relationship to the veteran)
  • Proof of the veteran’s service
  • Proof of the veteran’s death
  • Proof of your relationship to the veteran
  • Your income and assets (if claiming pension)

How do I plan for my veteran’s military funeral?

With some exceptions, all veterans whose character of service is other than dishonorable are eligible for burial in a national veterans cemetery. If possible, have the veteran complete a pre-need eligibility application well before their death and place the decision letter with other important estate planning documents.

You should discuss with your funeral director and the local management of the desired cemetery how to arrange for the transportation and burial of your veteran’s remains.

Military Funeral Honors are arranged through the Military Funeral Honors Directory.

My character of discharge is other than honorable. Do I still qualify for benefits?

Maybe. Overall, the VA cannot provide benefits to veterans whose reasons for discharge resulted in a statutory or regulatory bar to benefits. These bars can be difficult to overcome. If your current discharge does not meet the requirements for the benefit you are seeking, but you have not been barred from receiving that benefit, you may still submit a claim to the VA.

Submitting a claim is necessary to initiate a VA Character of Service Determination. This means that the VA will review your record to determine if your service was “honorable for VA purposes.” A successful VA Character of Service Determination will allow the VA to grant the claimed benefit. However, it will not change the character of service listed on your discharge document (e.g., you will not receive a DD 215 showing corrections to your DD 214). Additionally, this type of review cannot grant GI Bill/Post 9-11 GI Bill education benefits

If you have multiple periods of service and you are claiming benefits for a disability that occurred during a period of service that resulted in a discharge or release under conditions other than dishonorable, you may apply for benefits based on that period of service.