VA Disability Lawyers: How an Attorney Can Make a Difference

Many Veterans Depend on the VA for Financial Support Due to Debilitating Physical and Psychological Conditions.

The life of a soldier comes with inherent risk to life and limb. Some brave men and women walk away from their time in the military having sustained major injuries or suffering from severe psychological trauma. The long-term effects of service-related disabilities can be crippling for these Veterans. They can make it extremely difficult to function at work, in social settings, and in everyday life.

If you are one of the many Veterans dealing with the long-term impact of a physical or mental disability, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) may grant you tax-free monthly benefits to help you take care of yourself and loved ones. If your disability has made it hard for you to find a job, the VA may grant you disability benefits that are high enough for you to maintain financial stability.

However, in some circumstances, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs does not give a Vet a disability rating that is high enough to accurately reflect the severity of the Veteran’s disability. The VA’s decisions regarding the claims of disabled Vets are not always 100% accurate, and an inaccurate ruling can be financially disastrous for a Veteran. Because many Veterans are entirely dependent on the VA’s disability benefits to support themselves and their dependents, getting the right rating is extremely important.

If you find yourself with a decision from the VA that does not accurately reflect the severity of your disability, it’s normal to feel frustrated and even angry. While the VA’s intent is never to deprive a Veteran of the support they need, the department is not perfect and does not always rule fittingly. If you’ve been unduly denied disability benefits or have been approved for benefits with a rating that is too low, you can contest the VA’s decision with the help of an experienced attorney.

We’ll explore the role an attorney can play in helping you get a better outcome from the VA. Berry Law is committed to helping Veterans dispute VA decisions so they can get the benefits they deserve. We’re passionate about what we do because we are Veterans ourselves. Founded in 1965 by a Vietnam Veteran, Berry Law features attorneys from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, and we are dedicated to helping fellow Veterans get all the disability benefits they earned.

 

How VA Ratings Work 

If the VA approves your disability claim, you will be given a disability rating between 0% and 100%. These ratings are given in 10% increments and represent the severity of your disability. The higher a rating is, the more severe a Veteran’s condition is, and the more it affects their ability to function. A 100% disability rating is typically only given to Veterans with severe mental or physical disabilities that dramatically affect their ability to work and take care of their loved ones. 

VA disability ratings are sometimes also given as a result of a combination of multiple disabilities. For example, if a Veteran is suffering from two service-related disabilities – maybe PTSD and a back injury – these disabilities will be compounded to determine the Veteran’s disability rating. Thus, a Veteran who is still able to function in some ways but is suffering from multiple disabilities at once could receive a 100% disability rating.

It is important to note that a disability rating from the VA can change over time. The VA may increase or decrease a Veteran’s rating based on changes in the severity of their disability. In some cases, the VA might reduce a Veteran’s rating because they assume that the Veteran’s symptoms have improved over time. If the VA has decreased your disability rating, you may be getting fewer benefits than you deserve.

Getting your rating changed by the VA is a big deal. A higher rating means you will be more capable of taking care of yourself and your loved ones as you deal with the long-term effects of a service-related disability. No Veteran should be stuck with a disability rating that is too low. That’s where a Veterans’ disability attorney comes in – a skilled attorney can help you dispute a VA decision so that you can get the rating and benefits you deserve.

 

Why Does the VA Deny Claims? 

If the Department of Veterans’ Affairs denies a Veteran’s application to receive benefits, they are likely doing so after coming to one of three conclusions:

  • The VA may deny a claim if they do not see sufficient medical evidence to back up a Veteran’s application to receive benefits.
  • They may also deny a claim if they cannot establish a definitive connection between a Veteran’s military service and their disability. The disability may be legit, but in most cases, the VA can only grant benefits to Veterans suffering from service-related disabilities.
  • Finally, the VA may deny a claim if a Veteran has failed to take the required VA Compensation & Pension (C&P) exam. Every veteran who applies to receive benefits needs to take a C&P exam so that the VA can gather necessary information and run tests to determine whether a Veteran qualifies for benefits.

If you met all of the VA’s requirements to receive disability benefits but have still not been approved by the Department, you have the right to dispute the VA’s decision to deny your claim. An attorney can represent you throughout this process to help you make a strong plan to use in court.

Disputing a VA decision does not always involve a hearing. In some cases, the VA will change their ruling on a Veteran’s claim if the veteran requests a decision review. In a decision review, you may submit additional medical evidence, testimonials from fellow soldiers (known as “buddy statements”), and other information that can influence their decision to change a Veteran’s rating or grant your claim.

If you still end up with an outcome that you are unhappy with at the end of the decision review process, you can move forward with disputing the VA’s decision by utilizing other appeal avenues. Your attorney can help you determine which appeal lane is the best to pursue for your claim.

 

The Role of an Attorney 

When you need to make an appeal to the VA to get a better outcome for your disability claim, a skilled attorney can turn the tide for your case. If the VA denied your claim, making an appeal with an attorney’s help can increase your chances of getting the disability rating you deserve. If the VA approved your claim but gave you a low disability rating, an attorney can help you compile evidence to present to the VA that can convince them to increase your rating.

Working with a skilled attorney as you navigate the appeals process means that you don’t have to fight the VA alone. Dealing with the extensive rules and regulations of the VA by yourself is something no one should have to go through – a Veterans’ disability attorney has years of experience that make VA regulations their second language. For a disability attorney, the rules and regulations that are barring you from approval have the potential to be used in your favor rather than against you.

A skilled attorney knows what the VA is looking for and what influences their decision to approve or deny a claim. Your attorney can point out flaws in your case and help you tighten up any gaps in evidence. In addition, your attorney may also advise that you gather further evidence to present the VA by getting an independent medical exam (IME) or acquiring buddy statements from your fellow soldiers.

 

Your Attorney Will Stick With You Through All Stages of the Appeals Process. 

When you appeal a VA decision, the process begins at your regional VA office. Your attorney will represent you throughout the appeals process, and can also support you if your appeal moves to higher courts. A VA appeal can move from the regional VA office to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and even to higher courts before being settled. 

Contesting a VA decision takes skill and determination. With a great attorney on your side, you have a high chance of getting a much better outcome and ending up with the support that you deserve from the VA. If you need an experienced, compassionate, and committed attorney to represent you in a VA appeal, a member of the Berry Law team is the perfect representative for you. Call Berry Law today to schedule a free case evaluation.

 

Sources:

https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/665643

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10875549.2011.589259

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Frank_Weathers/publication/313709159_PTSD_Checklist_Reliability_validity_and_diagnostic_utility/links/58a5e38f92851cf0e39f24b1/PTSD-Checklist-Reliability-validity-and-diagnostic-utility