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VA Fully Developed Claims Program

Find out how you can use the Fully Developed Claims program to get a faster decision on your disability benefits claim by submitting evidence along with your claim.

Can I submit a fully developed disability claim?

You can submit a fully developed disability claim if you’re applying for compensation for:

  • An illness or injury (also called a condition) that was caused by—or got worse because of—your active-duty service, or
  • A condition that was caused—or made worse—by a disability we’ve already determined is service-connected

What do I need to do to submit a fully developed claim?

For us to consider your claim fully developed, you’ll need to:

  • Submit your completed Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits (VA Form 21-526EZ), and
  • Submit all the evidence (supporting documents) you have—or can easily get—along with your claim, and
  • Certify that there’s no more evidence we might need to decide your claim, and
  • Go to any VA medical exams required for us to decide your claim. We’ll let you know if you need any exams.

What evidence will I need to submit along with my disability claim?

You’ll need to send us:

  • All private medical records related to the claimed condition, like reports from your own doctor or X-rays or other test results from a non-VA hospital or other treatment center, and
  • Any records of medical treatment you’ve received for the claimed condition while serving in the military, and
  • Any military personnel records you have that relate to the claimed condition, and
  • Information about any related health records that you don’t have but that we can request on your behalf from a federal facility like a VA medical center or clinic

If you think your service records don’t include a description of your disability, you can also submit letters from family members, friends, clergy members, law enforcement personnel, or those you served with that can tell us more about your claimed condition and how and when it happened.

Note: In 1973, a fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis destroyed records held for Veterans who were discharged from the Army and Air Force during certain periods of time. Your records may have been destroyed in the fire if you were discharged from the Army between November 1, 1912 and January 1, 1960, or if you were discharged from the Air Force between September 25, 1947 and January 1, 1964. If you think your records may have been involved in this fire, you can learn more about the fire and how to get help filing a claim.
Learn more about the fire at the NPRC.


Are there any risks to using the Fully Developed Claims program?

No. Filing a fully developed claim won’t affect the attention we give to your claim or the benefits you’re entitled to receive.

If we determine that we need other non-federal records to make a decision on your claim, we’ll simply remove the claim from the Fully Developed Claims program and process it as a standard claim.

Once you start your fully developed claim, you’ll have up to 1 year to complete it. If we approve your claim, you’ll be paid back to the day you started it.


What should the evidence show to support my disability claim?

This depends on the type of claim you’re filing.


Find out what the evidence will need to show for these different claim types:

  • You’ll need to submit evidence of:

    • A current physical or mental disability from a medical professional or layperson (someone who’s not a trained professional) , and
    • An event, injury, or disease that happened during your active-duty service, and
    • A link between your current disability and the event, injury, or disease that happened during your service. Usually we need medical records or medical opinions from health care providers to support this link.

    Under certain situations, we may conclude that there’s a link between your military service and your disability even if there’s no evidence. This usually applies to:

  • You’ll need to submit current evidence from a medical professional or layperson (someone who’s not a trained professional) that shows your disability has gotten worse.

  • You’ll need to submit evidence of:

    • A current physical or mental disability from a medical professional or layperson (someone who’s not a trained professional), and
    • An event, injury, or disease that happened during your active-duty service, and
    • A link between your current disability and the event, injury, or disease that happened during your service. Usually, we need medical records or medical opinions from health care providers to support this link.
  • You’ll need to submit evidence of:

    • The new physical or mental disability from a medical professional or layperson (someone who’s not a trained professional), and
    • A link between the new disability and the disability we’ve already determined is service connected. Usually we need medical records or medical opinions from health care providers to support this link.
  • You’ll need to submit new evidence we’ve haven’t reviewed before that’s related to the issue you’re claiming.


Find out what additional evidence or forms you’ll need if you’re filing a claim for any of these issues:

  • You’ll also need to submit one of these forms:

    • A completed Statement in Support of Claim for Service Connection for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (VA Form 21-0781),
      Download VA Form 21-0781.
      or
    • If you’re claiming PTSD based on personal assault, a completed Statement in Support of Claim for Service Connection for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Secondary to Personal Assault (VA Form 21-0781a)
      Download VA Form 21-0781a.

    Learn more about PTSD claims.

  • You’ll need to submit everything listed here:

    • Medical evidence that shows a service-connected disability prevents you from getting or keeping substantially gainful employment (work that brings in enough money to earn a livelihood). Odd jobs (marginal employment), don’t count.
    • A completed Veteran’s Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability (VA Form 21-8940)
      Download VA Form 21-8940.
    • A completed Request for Employment Information in Connection with Claim for Disability Benefits (VA Form 21-4192), completed by your last employer
      Download VA Form 21-4192.

    Learn more about Individual Unemployability.

  • You’ll need to submit evidence that shows you experienced at least one of these situations at a hospital. You:

    • Spent more than 21 days in a VA hospital or other approved hospital for a service-connected disability, or
    • Were under hospital observation for more than 21 days at our expense for a service-connected disability

    If you had surgery, you’ll need to submit evidence that shows the surgery:

    • Required a recovery time of at least 1 month (or the surgery or treatment was for a service-connected disability), and
    • Resulted in severe issues for you, like surgical wounds that haven’t totally healed, stumps or recent amputations, being unable to move due to being put in splints or casts, being unable to leave your house, or having to use a wheelchair or crutches

    If you didn’t have surgery, you’ll need to show that one or more of your major joints was immobilized by a cast.

    Learn more about temporary 100% disability benefits.

  • You’ll need to submit evidence that shows at least one of these led directly to an added disability or to your injury or disease getting worse:

    • VA carelessness or negligence, or
    • VA medical or surgical treatment, or
    • A VA health exam, or
    • A VA vocational rehabilitation course (under 38 U.S.C. Chapter 31), or
    • VA compensated work therapy (CWT)(under 38 U.S.C. 1718)

    Learn more about VA Title 38 U.S.C. 1151 claims.

  • You’ll need to submit evidence that shows at least one of these is true. You:

    • Need another person to help you perform daily activities, like bathing, feeding, and dressing, or
    • Have to stay in bed—or spend a large portion of the day in bed—because of illness, or
    • Are a patient in a nursing home due to the loss of mental or physical abilities related to a disability, or
    • Have limited eyesight (even with glasses or contact lenses you have only 5/200 or less in both eyes; or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less)

    For Housebound benefits, you’ll need to submit evidence that shows you:

    • Have a single service-connected disability rated at 100% disabling and another service-connected disability rated at 60% or more disabling, or
    • Spend most of your time in your home because of a permanent disability (a disability that doesn’t go away)

    You’ll also need to submit one of these forms:

    • An Examination for Housebound Status or Permanent Need for Regular Aid and Attendance (VA Form 21-2680)
      Download VA Form 21-2680.
      or
    • If you’re in a nursing home, a Request for Nursing Home Information in Connection with Claim for Aid and Attendance (VA Form 21-0779)
      Download VA Form 21-0779.

    Learn more about Aid and Attendance benefits and Housebound allowance.

  • You’ll need to submit both of these:

    Learn more about disability housing grants.

  • You’ll need to submit evidence that shows at least one of these is true. You have:

    • Loss, or permanent loss of use, of 1 or both feet, or
    • Loss, or permanent loss of use, of 1 or both hands, or
    • Permanent decreased vision in both eyes: 20/200 vision or less in your better eye with glasses, or greater than 20/200 vision but with a visual field defect that has reduced your peripheral vision to 20 degrees or less in your better eye, or
    • A severe burn injury, or
    • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or
    • Ankylosis in 1 or both knees or hips (Note: This qualifies you for an adaptive-equipment grant only)

    You’ll also need to submit:
    An Application for Automobile or Other Conveyance and Adaptive Equipment (VA Form 21-4502)
    Download VA Form 21-4502.

    Learn more about automobile allowance and adaptive equipment.

  • You’ll need to submit medical evidence that shows the child became permanently disabled because of a physical or mental disability before their 18th birthday.


Learn how to file a disability claim through the Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) program.

Learn more about claims for conditions related to contact with hazardous materials.

Learn more about claims for former Prisoners of War (POWs).

Learn more about other special claims.


Can VA help me gather evidence?

Yes. We can help you through the Fully Developed Claims program.

We’ll:

  • Request your military service records (with your permission), and
  • Request relevant Social Security benefits information and medical records that you identify and authorize us to get from a federal facility, like a VA medical center, and
  • Schedule a health exam for you or get a medical opinion from a health care provider if we decide we need it for your claim

Note: Even though we’ll gather federal records (like your DD214 or VA medical records) on your behalf, we encourage you to submit these if you have them to save time in the process.


When should I turn in my evidence?

To submit your claim through the Fully Developed Claims program, you’ll need to turn in the information and evidence at the same time as you file your claim. If you turn in more information or evidence after you send in your fully developed claim, we’ll remove your claim from the FDC program and process it as a standard claim.

If we decide your claim before 1 year from the date we receive the claim, you’ll have the rest of that 1-year period to turn in additional information or evidence to support your claim.


How do I turn in my information and evidence?

You’ll need to upload all medical evidence or supporting documents at the end of the disability compensation form.

You can start your online application right now, or find out how to file a claim by mail, in person, or with the help of a trained professional.
Find out how to file a claim for disability compensation.


Should I work with a Veterans Service Officer (VSO) to file my claim?

You don’t have to, but we encourage you to work with an accredited VSO. These trained professionals can help you file your claim and gather the needed medical records and evidence.
Find out how to get help filing your claim.


More helpful resources

View the evidence requirements listed on the form for disability claims.
Get a checklist for preparing your Fully Developed Claim.
View a step-by-step graphic of the Fully Developed Claim online process.