intent to fileFor VA disability cases, one of the most common questions we hear is, “how long is this going to take?” Unfortunately, the length of time it takes to get a VA benefits claim approved varies from person to person. It has been our experience that it can take anywhere from a month to a year (sometimes more) to get approval for VA disability. The average time to settle a VA disability case in 2023 was between 120 and 150 days. The length of time you will wait for a decision in your case will depend on several key factors, including:

  • Type of claim filed. There are many kinds of VA disability claims, and each requires a different level of processing.
  • Type of disability. Your processing may take longer if you have a complex disability, such as PTSD or a mental disorder, or if you are claiming disability for more than one condition.
  • How long it takes to gather the necessary evidence. One of the most time-consuming aspects of your claim is gathering the necessary evidence about your impairment to present to the VA.

The VA does not require that you submit an Intent to File. However, submitting an Intent to File can ensure you will be compensated for the time it takes to process your claim.

What’s an Intent to File?

An Intent to File sets an effective (start) date for your benefits. Because of the length of time it takes for a VA disability claim to be decided, most favorable decisions will include retroactive benefit payments dated from your effective date, which is why it is essential to establish it as early as possible. If you submit a claim without first submitting an Intent to File, the effective date of your claim will be the date the VA receives your claim.

How can an Intent to File benefit you?

The two main benefits of Intent to File are apparent. It can help you maximize your back pay and buy you some time to gather evidence. Additionally, it may also help you avoid unnecessary appeals in the future. Even if you’re not planning on filing a claim right now, it’s still a good idea to submit an Intent to File because it will hold your start date if you decide to apply down the road. It is easy to fill out the Intent to File form and submit it.

How do you submit an Intent to File?

The Intent to File is a two-page document that requires just a few pieces of information. You have three ways to deliver your information: over the phone, through the mail, or in person. The first two steps for all three options are to download VA Form 21-0966 (PDF) and fill it out.

If you want to submit your Intent to File form over the phone, call the VA at 800-827-1000. The VA’s office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. ET.

If you want to notify the VA by mail, send your completed form to:

Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444

Or you can choose to take your completed form to a VA regional office near you.

What else do you need to know?

You can only submit one Intent to File at a time. Once you submit a completed claim, your Intent to File will become inactive. You must submit a new form, if you expect to file an Intent to File for another general benefit.

Where can you turn to for help?

 If you’ve filed your VA disability claim and have been denied or have received a low rating, don’t give up. Instead give us a call at Cuddigan Law (or send us an email). We can offer you a free evaluation of your case and free professional advice on how to proceed. We have helped Veterans all across the U.S. get the benefits they have rightfully earned.

Sean D. Cuddigan
Connect with me
SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska