How do I apply?

Produced by Veterans Legal Clinic Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School
Reviewed May 2020

Contact your local Veterans’ Service Officer (VSO) and file an application (known as a Form VS-1) to send to your local VSO.

Find your local VSO or call the Department of Veterans’ Services at 617-210-5480 and ask for your VSO’s contact information.

To apply you will need:

  • Your DD-214 or other discharge certificate.
  • Income information (such as pay stubs, public benefits award letters, or bank statements).
  • Proof of residence (such as rent receipts, mortgage payments, or a letter from a homeless shelter or transitional housing program).
  • For dependents:
    • veteran’s or child’s birth certificate,
    • veteran’s marriage certificate, or
    • veteran’s death certificate.

After you apply, the VSO will give you a written decision and explain why your application was approved or denied.

Your Right to Apply

Everyone has the right to apply for benefits and get help from the VSO in completing an application.

Everyone has the right to get fair and equal treatment without regard to sex, race, religion, handicap, ethnicity, or national origin.

Trouble applying for Chapter 115 Benefits?

If you have trouble applying for Chapter 115 Benefits, use Veterans Legal Services' online form to tell them about your experience  and get help.

What if my application is denied?

You have the right to appeal any decision made by your VSO about your benefits. Your VSO will send you a notice about his or her decision. You have 21 days from the date on the notice to file an appeal.

The chart on explains how you can file an appeal and the three appeal levels available to you.

Level 1: Appeal to DVS
To appeal, you must mail a signed request for an appeal to DVS within 21 days of the date of the decision notice from the VSO. 
 
If you are appealing the lowering or stopping of your benefits, you can receive your benefits while you are appealing. You must include a "request for continuation" in your written appeal to DVS.
 
DVS will schedule a hearing before a DVS Hearing Officer. 
You can attend the hearing by telephone if you cannot go in person.
Level 2: Appeal to DALA

If you lose your appeal at Level 1, you can appeal that denial to the Division of Administrative Law Appeals (DALA).

File an appeal to DALA within 10 days of when you get the decision from the DVS Hearing Officer.  You must appeal in writing by sending a letter to DALA.

DALA will schedule a pre-hearing conference to discuss your appeal, and then schedule a hearing in Boston.  

A DALA Magistrate will listen to statements, take documents, and accept evidence from you and DVS.  

The VSO must pay for your transportation to the DALA hearing if you cannot afford to travel to Boston.

Level 3: File for Judicial Review
If you lose your appeal at Level 2, you can file for Judicial Review of the decision in Massachusetts Superior Court within 30 days after you got the DALA decision. 

What if I want help with my appeal or have problems with the Chapter 115 Benefits Program?

You do not need to have an attorney to appeal.  If you want help or advice, you may be able to get free legal assistance.

You can ask for legal assistance if you want help with

  • an appeal to DVS,
  • to DALA, or
  • to Superior Court.
  • You may also be able to get free legal assistance if you just want advice about the program, your rights, and whether you might be able to get benefits.

For help:

  • Call Veterans Legal Clinic: 
    (617) 390-2525 or stop by our office at
    122 Boylston Street,
    Jamaica Plain, MA 02130,
    Monday - Friday,
    9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Veterans Legal Services
    Online Screening form
    on a mobile device
    857-317-4474
     

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

Ask a Law Librarian

If it's
Monday-Friday
between
9am and 4pm