Tips For Contacting a VA Appeals Attorney
What to Know Before Contacting a VA Appeals Attorney
When dealing with VA claims and appeals, you may come to the realization that you need help from a professional. Some Veterans will use a Veterans’ Service Organization (VSO) to help them with their appeals because it is a cost efficient (usually free) way to make your case. A VSO can provide significant help in certain situations, but a VA claims attorney may have more relevant experience to get you the benefits that you deserve when appealing an inadequate decision. A VA disability attorney can fight for you on your behalf and can often help you get a better result on your claim. Before you contact a Veterans’ rights attorney, there are several considerations and steps that you should take.
VA Claims Attorneys Only Work With Decisions Issued Within the Last Twelve Months
While there are exceptions to this rule (such as when the VA commits a Clear and Unmistakable Error), the biggest issue that most VA disability lawyers deal with is that they are unable to help Veterans who have had decisions issued over twelve months ago or have not filed a claim at all. Rating decisions usually need to be issued within the last twelve months for an attorney to take the case and appeal within required deadlines. If the decision has not been made within the last 12 months, the Veteran will have to file on their own for an increase or to reopen the claim. To file a VA disability claim, Veterans can go to the VA eBenefits site to complete and mail VA Form 21-526EZ “Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits”, along with copies of their service treatment records. Veterans can also go to a VA regional office and have a VA employee assist in the claim.
Claims Generally Require Medical Evidence and/or In-Service Stressors
A PTSD claim must have an in-service stressor so that the attorney can connect what happened in the military to the condition that they are claiming. A stressor statement (21-0781 or 21-0781A) is specifically required to connect the claim to an ongoing PTSD disability. In general, there are many different things that can cause a service-related disability, such as physical activity, combat related situations, and accidents or assaults. Medical evidence is oftend needed to connect symptoms to the in-service event. The case is easiest to prove if the condition was diagnosed while in the service or there are medical records from the Veteran’s time in service pointing to the symptoms of the condition. If there is no diagnosis or service medical records, the Veteran will most likely need to see a doctor for a medical opinion or use other evidence such as:
- Buddy statement(s)
- Newspaper article(s)
- Operations logs or Situation Reports
- Any other evidence that proves the event happened
There needs to be a link between symptoms and the service, so evidence supporting the claim is very important.
Copies of Service and Medical Records Will Be Required
The VA claims lawyer will ask for copies of records from the Veteran. These records will include
- A copy of their DD214
- VA Rating Decision
- Board of Veteran’s Appeals Decision
- Statement of the Case
- Other military and medical records
It is important that the documentation that the Veteran provides are copies and not original documents. Having this information ready for the attorney at the time of contact can speed up the process so that the attorney can begin reviewing the case and start the appeal as soon as possible.
Patience is Key: VA Claims Appeals Take Time
The Claims Appeals process can take years before a decision is issued, with the average time between 18-24 months. The length of the VA process relies on several different factors, such as how extensive the documentation is, whether it needs to reach the Board of Veterans Appeals or the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and which VA handled the original claim. It is important to realize that this is not a quick process and that patience is required for VA Claims. The Veterans’ attorney can help get the most out of the claim and make sure the correct paperwork is filed with proper evidence, but once the matter is before the VA, there is often nothing more that can be done, and these claims can still take a lot of time before a decision is made. Some cases have taken upwards of 7 years before the Veteran was finally awarded complete compensation. On the bright side, when a Veteran does win a long battle with the VA, they are entitled to backpay for the entire continuous duration of the claim. This backpay amount can reach or exceed $200,000, so it is important to keep fighting for your benefits and know that you’re not losing money while the fight drags out.
How Berry Law Firm Can Help With Your Claims Appeal
We serve the legal needs of Veterans throughout the United States who are unsatisfied with their VA rating decision or who have been previously denied a disability rating, and we work diligently to help them get the military benefits and compensation they are entitled to. Our firm is predominately composed of Veterans and military spouses, so we understand the struggle and frustration that comes with a VA claims appeal. Let our team help you get the benefits that you deserve. Contact Berry Law Firm today at 888-883-2483 or online for a free consultation about your VA disability claim.
Established in 1965 by Vietnam War veteran and attorney John Stevens Berry Sr., Berry Law Firm is a team of veterans dedicated to defending, safeguarding, and fighting to protect the rights of veterans. Over the decades, thousands of veterans from across the country and all branches of the military have trusted our firm with their cases and, more importantly, their futures.