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If you are an active-duty service member that plans to file a claim for a service-connected disability, there’s no need to wait for your separation before filing for benefits. If your separation date is within the next 90-180 days, the Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) program can help you get paid immediately after discharge. To be eligible for this program, all of the following must be true:
6 Eligibility Requirements of the BDD Program
- You have an illness or injury that you believe was caused or aggravated by your active-duty service
- You’re a service member on full-time active duty (including a member of the National Guard, Reserves, or Coast Guard)
- You have a known separation date
- Your separation date is in the next 180 to 90 days
- You’re available to go to VA exams for 45 days from the date you submitted your claim
- You can provide a copy of your service treatment records for your current period of service when you file your claim
According to the Veterans Administration, the average number of days to process a claim for disability benefits is 153 days. That’s a long time to wait to receive compensation benefits. The BDD program allows you to file a pre-discharge claim while you are still on active duty, allowing ample time for health exams, disability evaluation, and the processing of your claim. If your BDD claim is approved, you can receive disability compensation immediately after military discharge.
What Is the Benefits Delivery at Discharge Program?
To help a service member receive compensation benefits immediately after discharge, the Department of Veterans Affairs established the Benefits Delivery at Discharge program. Through this pre-discharge program, a service member can begin the claims process while still on active duty, resulting in VA benefits delivery immediately after discharge. A VA disability claim can often take months or even years to complete, which holds up compensation benefits that can help alleviate financial burdens.
To qualify for the BDD program, you must submit your claim 180-90 days before your discharge date. You will need to submit your service treatment record along with the application and attend disability evaluation exams before your military discharge. Following this requirement enables the VA to have all the information they need to determine your VA disability rating. Another benefit is that this is the best time to gather medical documentation. As time goes by, it becomes more challenging to locate treatment records and other disability-related evidence.
Although the VA must process a claim for VA disability benefits in a specified timeframe, several factors can hold up the process for months and even years. One common cause for delay is when the veteran does not have proper medical documents related to their service-connected disability. The Benefits Delivery at Discharge program makes the process more efficient for veterans and claims processors.
If a service member is not eligible to file a BDD claim, they can file a standard or fully developed claim.
6 Eligibility Requirements for the BDD Program
You may be wondering, “Am I eligible for Benefits Delivery at Discharge?” To be eligible to submit a BDD claim, you must meet all of these requirements.
1. You have an illness or injury that you believe was caused or aggravated by your active-duty service
To be eligible for the BDD Program, you must have a service-connected disability. What is a service-connected disability? Any injury or illness that was caused or made worse by your military service. Examples include chronic back pain from injury during training or PTSD from deployment trauma.
You must have medical treatment documents for each service-connected illness or injury that you include in your claim.
2. You’re a service member on full-time active duty (including a member of the National Guard, Reserves, or Coast Guard)
Any Soldier, Airman, Sailor, Marine, or Coast Guardsman that is on active duty can submit a BDD claim. This includes Reservists and National Guardsmen on active duty. The service member must have at least 90 days left on their active duty orders to start the process.
3. You have a known separation date
The time limits of the BDD program are based on the servicemember discharge date. For this reason, you must have an established separation date. If you do not have a firm separation date, you will not be able to begin the BDD claims process. Once you know your separation date, you can then file your claim if you are still within the 180-90 day window.
4. Your separation date is in the next 180-90 days
You can file a claim through the Benefits Delivery at Discharge program if your separation date is between 180-90 days. It’s best to file close to the 180-day mark, if possible. This allows the maximum amount of time to have your claim reviewed and a VA disability rating awarded. It is best to gather as much information as you can before 180 days so you can submit it right away.
If you need more time to prepare, you have up until 90 days before separation to file your claim. However, if you have less than 90 days, you’ll need to file a standard or fully developed claim.
If you are a wounded warrior or cannot perform your duties due to illness or injury, you’ll be referred to the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) instead of using the BDD process.
5. You’re available to go to VA exams for 45 days from the date you submitted your claim
Part of the disability claim process is attending VA exams. If you want to submit a BDD claim, you’ll need to be available to attend these exams for 45 days from the date you submit your claim. Service members stationed overseas need to have 45 days left to attend VA exams. The only overseas locations for VA exams are Landstuhl, Germany, and Camp Humphreys, Korea.
6. You can provide a copy of your service treatment records for your current period of service when you file your claim
Your service treatment record is one of the most critical documents in your VA disability claim. These records help establish proof of a service connection for your conditions. That’s why you must have all your medical documents in order and available for your claim. The more time that passes from the date of your injury, the more likely it is that records can be misplaced. Insufficient medical documents are one of the main reasons that claims get delayed or denied.
To submit a claim through BDD, you must be able to submit all your medical treatment records at the time of filing.
Who Is Excluded from the BDD Program?
There are a few factors that can exclude a service member from using the BDD program. These exclusions are:
- Not meeting any of the requirements mentioned above
- Having a serious illness or injury that prevents you from daily duties
- Being terminally ill
- Illness or injury that resulted in the loss of limb
- Overseas duty that prevents you from attending VA in Germany or Korea
- Being hospitalized in VA or Military Treatment Facility
- Claims that need a character of discharge determination
If any of these conditions apply, you will need to file your claim through a different program depending on your specific situation.
How to File a Disability Claim Before Leaving Service
The easiest way to file your BDD claim is through the VA disability claim portal. Here you can complete your application online and attach supporting documents such as personnel records, service treatment records, marriage certificate, birth certificate (if applicable), and direct deposit information. A detailed packet makes the claim process and disability benefits delivery easier.
If you don’t want to submit your claim online, you can complete the VA Form 21-526EZ Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits and mail it along with supporting documents. You can also fax the packet or hand-deliver it to your regional office.
A disabled veteran may also choose to get help from a veteran service officer to submit their VA disability claim. These trained professionals will assist in preparing the initial claims packet and managing any follow-up requests for information from the VA during the claims process.
If you are stationed overseas, you should contact the BDD office closest to you for assistance with your BDD claim.
Additional Available Benefits
There are other VA benefits that a veteran may qualify for after discharge. Educational benefits pay for tuition, fees, housing, and other expenses depending on the specific chapter of GI Bill benefits. Eligible veterans can use housing benefits such as the VA Home Loan program or housing grants.
Veterans that need help finding post-military employment can utilize the Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) program, formerly called the vocational rehabilitation and employment program. The program helps with job training, resume writing, vocational coaching, and employment accommodations.
Because there are so many programs available to veterans, it is wise first to consult the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), which is available on most military installations. Transition specialists from TAP can connect you with specific resources to your transition plan that address your specific needs.
Continuing Health Care Benefits Program
A significant concern for a transitioning service member is health care after discharge. Tricare offers the Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP) to bridge the gap between military health care and your new civilian health plan. It is a premium-based program that provides minimum coverages as set by the Affordable Care Act. The program is temporary and provides health coverage for 18-36 months.
Benefits Delivery at Discharge
The Benefits Delivery at Discharge program helps to put money in your pocket when you need it most, immediately after military discharge. Prompt benefits delivery can alleviate the financial burden that often accompanies the transition to civilian life. A VA disability claim can often take months, and sometimes years, to process. The BDD program eliminates lengthy processing delays.
Filing a BDD claim also helps you present the best disability claim possible by filing it while you have access to your complete service treatment record. The more time that passes from the date of injury or illness, the more difficult it becomes to track down treatment documents. In addition to medical documents, you may need to get witness statements from fellow service members. This is easier to accomplish while you are still on active duty.
Filing the actual claim is also easy with several options available. The claim can be filed online, through mail or fax, or in person at your local regional office. If you are stationed overseas, consult the BDD office on your installation. And remember to check with your local TAP office who can help you with benefits offered by the VA and many other agencies.