If you are a Veteran who has applied for disability benefits you know that the process is long and involves stacks of paperwork. One of the many letters the VA may have sent you is a Summary of Benefits Letter—also known as a VA Award Letter. This is a critically important letter which spells out:
- Your disability rating,
- Your monthly payment amount,
- The dates related to your claim,
- Considerations that led to the rating decision, and
- Steps you can take upon receiving the final verdict.
(Click here for more information on “Understanding Your Award Letter”.)
You will want to hold onto this letter in case you want to appeal a denial or apply for an increased rating or take any other action related to your claim. The award letter also is proof of VA disability which can be useful in many situations including getting tax exemptions offered by many states; qualifying for a reduced rate loan offered by some mortgage companies; and in some locales, being offered discounted or even free hunting and fishing licenses.
However, all of us, at one time or another, have mislaid or misfiled a paper document. And it is even possible that you never received your VA Award Letter—sometimes things get lost in the mail.
The good news is that if you can’t lay your hands on your VA Award Letter, there is an easy and painless way to get a copy of it. The VA keeps all letters on file in its computer database.
The VA offers these directions for viewing and downloading your letter:
- “On your computer, go to https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/homepage
- You’ll see a blue “Log In” button in the upper right corner of the page. Click the button.
- This will take you to a page where you’ll have three options for a secure log in: DS, ID.me, or LOGIN.GOV. Click on the method of choice, and you’ll get a popup window asking you to accept the terms of service. Click ACCEPT.
- Once you are logged in, you’ll arrive at your home dashboard. Go to the navigation bar at the top of the page and find the tab that reads “Manage.” You should get a drop-down menu, where you’ll find a line for “Documents and Records.”
- From there, click the link for “VA Letters” and you’ll see “Benefit Summary – Veteran Benefits” as an option. A click will take you to the Benefit Summary Letter page, where you can select the information you want shown on your letter. (This allows you to customize the letter based on where you’re sending a copy, so you can keep some information, such as your monthly benefit amount, private.)
- Once you’ve selected all the checkboxes, you can click the blue button at the bottom of the page that reads “Generate Benefit Summary Letter.”
- Your computer’s PDF viewer will open and see a full award letter. Check to make sure the document is complete, then save it one of two ways. You can either save by clicking an icon that looks like an old floppy computer disk or print the document. The print function also allows you to save by selecting “Print to PDF.” Either save option allows you to store the document on your computer, so it’s there when you need it, and you can email it whenever necessary.”
If you do not have access to a computer, you can also write to your regional VA office to ask them to send you another copy of your letter. You can also contact the VA directly at (800) 827-1000, (voice prompt “Letters”) and have a Summary of Benefits Letter faxed or mailed to you. The VA warns that these methods “will take considerably longer and may delay you from taking necessary action on your claim.”
If you are considering appealing your benefit decision keep in mind under the current AMA (Appeals Modernization Act) rules you have one year from the date of a decision to file an appeal unless it is a final Board denial in which case, you have 120 days to file an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. To meet these deadlines, get a copy of your Award Letter right away and contact the VA accredited disability attorneys at Cuddigan Law for a free evaluation of your case and advice for appealing your decision. We have been supporting Veterans for years. If you hire us to fight for your rights, we only get paid if you win your case.