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.
Types of VA Benefits
Service Connected Disability Compensation 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.
Non-Service Connected Pension 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 veterans 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
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.
Get a Good VA Claim Lawyer
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.
Selecting A Veterans Disability Lawyer To Fight For Your Claim
The decision to hire a VA claims lawyer to represent you for your VA disability compensation claim appeal 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:
When You Do NOT Need an Attorney
for Your VA Claim
This includes an original claim, a claim for increase, or a reopened claim. In these situations VA has a duty under the law to help you win your claim by getting any service records, social security records, VA medical records and private medical records that you tell VA are important to your claim.
VA must also send you to one of their doctors, a C&P exam, if there is need for a medical opinion to win your case. In these situations you need to submit evidence or let VA know where to get it but you should make VA fulfill its duty.
VA often fails to pay a veteran for dependent benefits when a veteran wins service connected benefits. A veteran could hire an attorney here to appeal it but it would be easier and much faster to apply online through Ebenefits. A veteran service officer (VSO) can handle this claim for a veteran as well.
There has been a lot of information in the news of late where the VA ‘set’ C&P exams that the veteran never received notice for. Then VA turned around and denied benefits on this basis. Additionally, there are times where a veteran does not get notice of the C&P exam because it goes to the wrong address or the veteran has a conflict. In these situations, it would be best to not appeal but to write a letter to VA and explain why the veteran was unable to attend the C&P exam. Remember the veteran has a year to appeal the decision. Writing a letter about why the veteran could not attend and then asking for a new exam is potentially a faster way to get the proper benefits. Now if there is no response to the letter asking for a new exam after several months then the veteran should consider appealing. The appeal will take longer—possibly years—but if VA is not going to respond to the request for a new exam it is better to move the case forward.
Was VA missing evidence that you have and you know that will prove your claim? Can you get a statement from your doctor?