Veterans Disability Attorney

Military service is one of the most selfless things you can do for your country. However, those who serve run the risk of injury or experiencing trauma during their service. Military veterans are supposed to be eligible for VA benefits and to make disability claims so that they’re taken care of in exchange for their service. However, many VA disability claims are denied. Many veterans are left without the coverage they need for a disability caused by their military service as they try to appeal.

 

If you’re a military veteran and have suffered from an injury or PTSD from your time in service, but your VA disability claim has been denied, you may have a case. A lawyer for veterans can help you appeal your claim and make sure that you get the benefits you deserve. Farah & Farah’s attorneys are experienced in veterans’ disability claims. Don’t wait to contact us for a free consultation.

 

What Is a Veterans’ Disability Attorney?

A veterans’ disability attorney is a lawyer for veterans who specializes in fighting disability and other veterans’ benefits denials. The VA is supposed to offer general benefits to all veterans, as well as disability benefits for those injured during or experiencing PTSD from their time in service and survivor’s benefits so that the family of anyone who is unfortunately killed in service is taken care of.

 

However, many VA disability claims get denied, leaving veterans without the care they need and deserve. That’s where a lawyer for veterans can help. There is an appeals process, but hiring a lawyer to help with the process can increase the chances of the appeal being successful.

 

New VA Class Action Lawsuit

Until recently, veterans couldn’t sue the VA, but in 2019, a court allowed a class action lawsuit against the VA over benefits to proceed. What this means is that if an appeal is unjustly denied, there are more steps that can be taken to pursue justice.

 

Am I Eligible for Veterans’ Disability Benefits?

In order to be eligible for disability benefits with the VA, there are some requirements that must be met. First, you must both:

  • Have a disability rating for a condition related to your service and
  • Have served inactive duty training, active duty training, or on active duty.

In addition, the condition (either an illness or injury that’s either mental or physical) must be a(n):

  • In-service disability – a condition developed during military service
  • Preservice disability – a condition that preexisted military service but was made worse by military service
  • Postservice disability – a condition that is related to military service but that didn’t appear until after discharge.

 

Military veterans and certain qualified dependents may be eligible for disability benefits if they meet these criteria. If you were dishonorably discharged from military service, however, you may not be eligible.

 

What Does a Lawyer for Veterans Do?

Both the claims process and the appeals process can be complicated. The VA recommends that veterans seek assistance with both processes. A lawyer for veterans can help with your case when you make a claim in the first place and ideally reduce the risk of the claim being denied. The attorney can help ensure that you have all of the evidence and documentation that you need and that there aren’t any weaknesses in your claim.

 

A lawyer for veterans can also help you with an appeal. In the past, the appeals process was more complicated, but even with the simplified newer system, a lawyer for veterans can help you shore up any weaknesses in your appeal and ensure that you have everything that you need.

 

Unrecognizable soldier meets with therapist

How Do I Make a VA Disability Claim?

Before you file a veterans’ disability claim, there are some steps the VA requires you to follow:

  • Check your eligibility for disability claims
  • Gather all supporting documents and evidence
  • Completely fill out all forms
  • Check for additional forms

Once you have the completed claim together, along with all supporting documents and evidence, you can officially file the claim. You can file a claim online, by mail, in person, or with the help of an attorney or other trained professional. Once your claim has been filed with the VA, the VA will contact you either requesting documents, to schedule an exam, or with other information about your claim. In April of 2020, the average wait time for a decision was 105 days.

 

Why Was My Veterans’ Disability Claim Denied?

The most common reason why a veterans’ disability claim is denied is that it wasn’t related to the veterans’ military service. In the denial, the VA may claim that the veteran failed to prove that the condition was related to their military service, was not connected to a condition sustained or developed while in-service, or because there was no evidence of symptoms of the disability.

 

The denial that you receive from the VA will explain exactly why the claim was denied. In some cases, this may mean that the VA just needs more proof of the disability in order to approve the claim. However, some denials may be unjustified in the hopes that the veteran will not appeal or that the appeal will also be denied.

Woman veteran in wheelchair returned from army. Close-up photo veteran woman in a wheelchair

 

How Can I Appeal My Veterans’ Disability Claim Denial?

How you begin the appeals process depends on which type of appeal you’re wanting to make. All of the forms for filing an appeal are available on the VA website alongside instructions for how to submit them. Before filing the appeal, you may want to discuss your case with a qualified attorney, who can help you go over all of your documentation and ensure that you don’t have weaknesses in your case that will get your appeal denied.

 

What Is the VA?

The VA is the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. It’s responsible for managing the benefits and health care for military veterans. This includes disability claims, education, records, and other benefits. Any veterans’ disability claims will be filed and tracked through the VA. Veterans can also get life insurance, save for retirement, and get benefits for their families through the VA.

 

What Types of Veterans’ Benefits Are There?

The VA provides the following benefits to the military veterans it serves:

  • Service member benefits
  • Family member benefits
  • Careers/employment
  • Housing assistance
  • Life insurance
  • Education
  • Training
  • Health care
  • Disability benefits
  • Pension
  • Records
  • Burials/memorials

 

Any veteran should be eligible for standard benefits through the VA just for having served in the military. However, some benefits, such as disability benefits, are only available to veterans who meet the qualifications for those benefits.

 

USA armed forces military man salutes American flag

 

What Conditions do Veteran’s Disability Benefits Cover?

There are a wide variety of conditions that can be covered by veterans’ disability benefits with the VA. These can include conditions such as:

  • Ulcers
  • Hearing loss (especially severe hearing loss)
  • Chronic back pain
  • Cancers (from contact with hazardous chemicals)
  • Breathing problems (caused by a lung disease or condition)
  • Range of motion loss
  • Scar tissue
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)

There are many more conditions that may be covered by veterans’ disability benefits, but they must meet the criteria for eligibility. This means that any disability for which you’re applying for disability benefits with the VA must have been sustained or worsened by your military service and you must have been on active duty or training for either active duty or inactive duty when the condition was developed.

 

How Can I Prove I’m Eligible for Veterans’ Disability Benefits?

Usually, when the VA denies a disability claim, the VA claimed the reason was that the veteran failed to prove that the disability in question was related to their active duty service or training. Proof of the disability may not necessarily be required at the time the claim is filed but during the claim process, it will need to be produced. This proof may need to include:

  • Medical records related to the disability
    • Service treatment and medical records
    • Medical records from after discharge showing the disability worsened
  • Supporting statements from friends, family, colleagues, etc.
  • Separation documents (DD214)
  • Any other medical records pertaining to your disability

 

What Are Disability Ratings?

The VA calculates disability by percentage from 0% to 100% in increments of ten percent. The higher the disability rating, the higher the payout for successful disability benefits claims. The higher rate of compensation for higher percentages is designed to compensate for the fact that the higher your disability rating, the more disabled you are and the more the disability affects your daily life.

What Are Disability Compensation Rates?

The compensation rate is how much compensation a veteran gets from a successful disability claim. The amount depends on the disability rating but is also affected by other criteria, including:

  • Loss of limbs
  • Dependent children
  • Disabled spouse

These factors could increase the base amount that would typically be awarded a disabled veteran with no children, etc. The more children a veteran has, the more the compensation could be increased. The VA lists the current compensation rates on its website for each disability rating.

What Is the Appeals Process?

If you submitted a veterans’ disability claim and it was denied, the VA does offer veterans the option to appeal the denial. Traditionally, the VA appeal process took a really long time, so long that veterans who went through it might forget what they were appealing in the first place during their wait. However, in 2019, the VA switched to a new system in order to make the appeals process faster. The VA hoped that this new system will not only make the appeals process faster but that it will also help the VA decrease its large backlog of hundreds of thousands of cases.

What Appeals Options Do I Have?

Veterans have three different appeals options if their disability claim is denied:

  • Supplemental claim
  • Review by a senior official
  • Review by the Board of Veterans Appeals

The supplemental claim option allows veterans to add additional evidence that wasn’t in the original claim and the process should be complete within 125 days under the new system. A review by a senior official escalates the claim to a higher-level official, the equivalent of escalating a problem to a manager. This option should also take 125 days under the new system.

 

The final option of review by the Board of Veterans Appeals has a longer wait, even under the new system, and may take up to a year. However, under the old system, a typical wait for any of the three options could take between three and even seven years. Although the new system should cut down on the wait veterans face for the decision on the appeal, the new system doesn’t promise any increase in the success rate of submitted appeals.

 

The idea is to make the entire process clearer so that veterans can more easily understand what they need in order to submit the appeal and where any weaknesses in their case may be. Veterans will have the option to submit further appeals if their first appeal is denied, allowing them to add any new evidence and clarify their case.

How Do I File a Supplemental Claim?

When you file a Supplemental Claim with the VA, you’re stating that there is new evidence for your disability claim. To file a supplemental claim, download form 20-0995, fill out the form, gather your new evidence that pertains to your condition and disability, and then apply either by mail or in person.

How Do I File a Higher-Level Review?

A Higher-Level Review escalates your disability claim appeal to a higher-level reviewer and requests that that senior reviewer looks over your claim again. That senior reviewer will look for whether there is a difference of opinion about your case or whether your claim had been denied in error. You cannot submit any further evidence in this type of appeal and can only work with what has already been submitted.

 

To file a Higher-Level Review appeal, download and fill out form 20-0996. Then, you can submit the appeal by mail or in person.

How Do I File a Board Appeal?

A Board Appeal is an appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, based in Washington D.C. A Veterans Law Judge, who is an expert in laws pertaining to veterans, will review your case. There are three options with this type of appeal:

  • Direct review
  • Submit additional evidence
  • Request a hearing

 

To file a Board Appeal, download and fill out form 10182. Select which type of Board Appeal you want to make and fill out exactly what issue with your claim you want to be reviewed. Then, submit the form by mail, in person, or by fax.

What Is My Disability Claims Status?

You can keep track of the status of any claim or appeal at the VA website. Sign in to your VA account and you can check on the status of any of the following:

  • Disability claims or appeals
  • Veterans benefits
  • Survivors Pension benefits
  • Special monthly compensation
  • DIC (Dependency and Indemnity Compensation)
  • GI Bill or other education benefits
  • VA health care
  • VR&E (Veteran Readiness and Employment)
  • Home loan CoE (Certificate of Eligibility)
  • Life insurance
  • SAH (Specially Adapted Housing) or SHA (Special Housing Adaptation) grants
  • Burial allowance
  • Eligibility to be buried in a VA national cemetery

What Are Survivors’ Benefits?

Survivor benefits, or VA DIC (Dependency and Indemnity Compensation), are paid out to surviving spouses, children, or parents of service members who either died in the line of duty or who later died of a disability or condition that was service-related. The eligibility requirements for DIC benefits are the same as those for disability benefits. Those who qualify for them receive a tax-free monthly benefit.

 

The surviving members of a service member or veteran’s family can apply for DIC benefits on the VA website by filling out the form appropriate for their relationship to the service member or veteran.

 

Ceremonial Flag offering

VA Lawsuits

In 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims ruled that class action lawsuits can be filed against the VA. In 2019, the first case that met its criteria was allowed to go ahead. This case, called Godsey v. Wilkie, sought to represent veterans facing lengthy delays in the disability claims and appeals process through the VA. VA officials admitted that at the time, many veterans were waiting for years for their results. It was argued that this lengthy delay was depriving veterans of the right to due process.

 

The VA has since overhauled its claims and appeals process to speed up the wait time significantly. Instead of years, many veterans are now waiting only months. In addition, the VA displays the current average wait time for each type of claim or service on its website so veterans know about how long it could be before they see results.

 

Before 2018, the VA could not be subject to lawsuits, but the court ruled that class action lawsuits against the department could be filed, which opens up the possibility of future lawsuits against the VA.

Should I Hire a Veterans’ Disability Lawyer?

The VA recommends hiring a professional to assist with both the claims and appeals process. A lawyer for veterans can help make the filing process a lot smoother, as the attorney can help ensure that the claim is filled out properly and that all needed evidence has been gathered. If your claim has any weaknesses in it, an attorney can point out those flaws and help you determine what paperwork you need.

 

With the help of an attorney, or a lawyer for veterans, you may be able to get more in compensation than you might by filing the claim on your own. It may also be the difference between a successful claim the first time around instead of having to file an appeal with supplemental documentation. Farah & Farah’s attorneys are experienced in veterans law and can help you file your disability claim or appeal. Don’t hesitate to contact us for the help you need in seeking the compensation that you deserve.