For those who have served our country in the Armed Forces, Congress has passed laws that provide for extensive medical and disability benefits. Congress wrote these laws to be “veteran-friendly.” Unfortunately, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs does not always interpret these laws in favor of the veteran.
Click to listen to Brian Hill speak about veterans disability law and VA claims lawyers.
There are two basic types of benefits available through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. These are VA disability benefits and health benefits.
Veterans may be entitled to two different types of disability payments. These are service connected disability compensation benefits and non-service connected pension benefits.
VA service connected disability compensation benefits are monthly payments made to veterans, and, in some cases, their families. The veteran is entitled to compensation when he can show that this disability is related to an injury or event in service. The disability payments, known as the disability rating are based on the degree of the current disability. A veteran does not have to be completely disabled to receive compensation benefits.
For servicemen who served in a period of war, the VA law allows non-service connected pension benefit, regardless of whether the disability was service connected. This benefit is income and asset tested and only applies to those wartime veterans who do not have significant income and assets and are completely disabled.
Widows and widowers of deceased veterans may also be entitled to payments based on a disability of their spouse. The VA law provides for a monthly payment, known as DIC benefits, where a service connected condition contributed to the death of the veteran or where the veteran was totally disabled because of a service connected condition for a certain period of time before the death.
Congress designed the veterans’ claim process to be veterans’ friendly. As President Lincoln said the purpose of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” There is no time limit on when a claim can be brought. Congress recognized that, sometimes, an event that occurred in service may take many years to cause a disability. In these cases, the veteran is entitled to bring a claim no matter how long it has been since he got out of the service.
Just as important, a veteran has the right to reopen a claim that has already been denied by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. In order to get another chance at proving his claim, all the veteran needs to do is produce new and material evidence showing that his claim should be granted.
If you receive a favorable award from the VA, you should read the Rating Decision closely. You want to read what evidence the VA used to determine your rating. It is imperative to make sure that you received all the benefits to which you are entitled. Specifically, you should closely scrutinize these parts of the Rating Decision: the award of service connection, the degree of disability granted, and the effective date of the award.
As VA disability lawyers, we routinely see veterans win the battle of service connection only to lose the war of getting the proper compensation. What this means is that service connection is the acknowledgment by the VA that your disability is related to service. A lot of times the VA grants service connection and low balls the rating. The differences in the percentages for the ratings vary greatly from $100 to $3000. It is important to make sure that the rating VA assigned is the proper one. A good VA claim lawyer is going to review the VA’s C&P exams against the veteran’s own evidence to make sure that the full award is given. A lot of times this careful review results in an appeal to get the proper benefits.
Another common mistake is not to fully investigate the effective date. VA disability lawyers are going to look back at all your previous claims in the C file and determine if there is a way to take the benefits back further than the date of the current claim. In some cases, your award may have an effective date that could go back for decades. When this happens, the VA is required to pay you all of the benefits you would have received over the years. This could result in a very large award of money.
Veteran’s Disability Law is an extremely complex area of law. Prior to 2006, veterans were not allowed to hire VA disability lawyers to represent them in the Regional Office and the BVA. This law was changed in 2006 with the recognition by Congress that veterans should have the right to hire VA claim lawyers in this very important area of law.
In veteran’s disability claims, a VA disability lawyer can help clarify the issues and ensure that the claim is properly supported by evidence so that the claim can be appealed, if necessary.
The decision to hire a VA claims lawyer to represent you for your VA disability compensation claim is an extremely important one. If you are going to pay a VA disability lawyer then that lawyer must be able to do more for your claim than the free representation that you can get from a veteran service officer. The VA claims lawyer must prove to you that they bring value added to your claim. Once you sign a contract with a VA disability lawyer you cannot easily get out of it.
Here is a checklist that you should use in researching and interviewing a VA disability lawyer for your claim: