Q: I am leaving the service. Is it in my best interest to file a pre-discharge claim or use the traditional claims process?
A: This isn't a cut and dry answer. Let me explain.
Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) allows a servicemember to submit a claim for disability compensation 60 to 180 days prior to release from active duty or demobilization. BDD requires a minimum of 60 days to allow sufficient time to complete a medical examination process prior to separation from service. Servicemembers with one to 59 days remaining on active duty, or servicemembers who do not meet the BDD criteria requiring availability for all examinations prior to discharge, may file a Quick Start (QS) claim.
As of November 2012, the average days pending for BDD claims is 167 days and 276 days for QS claims. So based on my level of expertise and those who deal exclusively with BDD and QS claims, if you plan to leave the area from where you are exiting service, then it may be better to file a traditional claim once you get to your permanent residence.
This is because the local VA regional office or medical center may have a shorter timeline for processing claims or examinations. And, Depending on when you leave your active duty station your examining facility may not be the same as the one you receive medical care from after Service. This may affect continuity of care. If you plan to stay in the area from which you exit there is no doubt that the BDD or QS program likely suits you best.
The pre-discharge claims programs are designed to help veterans receive VA disability benefits sooner by starting the claims process before separation. BDD and QS are available nationwide and open to all Service members on full time active duty, including members of the National Guard and Reserve. Members of the Coast Guard may also participate.
Do you have a claims question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.