Types of VA Benefit Claims We Help Veterans Pursue
Getting veterans’ disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is often a complex, confusing and frustrating task. Many deserving veterans receive less than they deserve because they cannot get through the VA bureaucracy.
Berry Law Firm dedicates a large portion of its legal practice to helping military veterans appeal VA disability claim decisions. We go far beyond rounding up records and filing forms. We work with veterans and those around them — family, doctors, therapists, caretakers, etc. — to develop strategies for countering faulty VA decisions on appeal.
Our veterans’ law practice began when John S. Berry, Sr. began to represent fellow Vietnam veterans who suffered from PTSD. Since then, he and our other attorneys, many of whom are also military veterans, have helped thousands of veterans appeal disability benefits claims and recover millions of dollars in benefits they deserved.
We Are Veterans Serving Veterans
Lawyers at Berry Law Firm are veterans who help veterans pursue VA disability benefits. We help veterans appeal flawed claim decisions before VA Regional Offices nationwide, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
John S. Berry, Sr., John S. Berry, Jr. and other members of our firm have served multiple branches of the military in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. We have experienced first-hand the sacrifices that veterans make on deployments and at home. We also know how veterans’ selflessness affects their lives forever afterward.
We have experience successfully guiding veterans’ cases through the VA appeals process. Our work litigating issues in VA claims at the federal appellate court level has resulted in case law that has changed VA rules.
We know the way forward.
VA Disability Claim Appeals Process Anticipates Faulty Claim Decisions
The VA is a vast government bureaucracy with volumes of rules and regulations. Add a backlog of veterans’ disability claims to this, and it’s no wonder VA claims evaluators make bad decisions from time to time.
Diagnostic Codes for individual physical and mental illnesses, injuries and disorders guide VA disability claims decisions. Some disabilities, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) have additional rules and regulations on top of Diagnostic Codes.
In the end, a disability claim decision is somebody’s judgement call. Evaluators can and do get it wrong. This is why there is an appeals process. This is why any veteran has the absolute right to appeal a VA disability benefits decision that does not meet their needs.
The objectives for appealing a VA disability benefits decision are to:
- Gain approval of a wrongly denied claim
- Increase the VA disability rating applied to an approved claim
- Obtain Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) status if a 100% disability rating is not available
The VA provides a multilevel appeals process. A disabled veteran may do the following to hear their case:
- VA Regional Office (RO): A veteran’s initial appeal, called a Notice of Disagreement (NOD), goes to their local RO. It’s possible but not likely that the RO will review the veteran’s claim and NOD, and reverse the initial decision. Most likely the RO will forward the claim to the next appeal body.
- Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA): When the BVA receives appeals from VA ROs, the board conducts a fresh (de novo) review of the claim’s facts and legal issues, and renders a decision. The veteran may request a hearing before the BVA or just have the board review their file. A hearing may slow the process, but there is also evidence that BVA hearings yield wins more often than cases without hearings.
- U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (USCAVC): Veterans dissatisfied with BVA decisions can take their case to the federal appeals court. At this step, the veteran sues the VA. This national court of record, established by Article I of the U.S. Constitution, is the first opportunity to truly argue the root issues of a veteran’s disability claim. The Court reviews how the VA has applied relevant statutes and regulations to the claim under review and hears arguments that the VA has erred. Decisions here (and in courts above) can change how the VA handles future disability claims.
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit: The Federal Circuit Court hears appeals of VA cases nationwide, as well as other cases about certain other issues and topics. Only decisions of the Supreme Court or legislative changes in the law supersede decisions of the Federal Circuit Court. Because review by the Supreme Court is discretionary, Federal Circuit Court opinions often conclude a veteran’s case.
- Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS): The Supreme Court has the final word on all legal matters in the United States. A veteran may petition the Supreme Court for review of a Federal Circuit Court decision. To accept the case, the Supreme Court would have to decide that the issues at hand have widespread implications or that the Circuit Court’s decision conflicts with existing law and/or a prior SCOTUS decision. The Supreme Court receives about 7,000 “petitions for certiorari” each year, but hears only about 100 to 150 cases.
Most veterans initially file for VA disability benefits on their own, or with the assistance of a veterans’ support organization. Some are also able to follow VA forms and instructions to file an appeal with their VA Regional Office and the BVA, or to make such requests as for a review of their disability rating.
However, the review of a case by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (USCAVC) is a formal court proceeding. Berry Law Firm attorneys have handled hundreds of cases at the CAVC and thousands of cases at the VA agency level which includes the Regional Offices and the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA).
Over several decades of working with disabled veterans, and as VA disability law has evolved, Berry Law Firm has seen thousands of disability appeals granted. It’s unfortunate, but the VA can make mistakes on what looks like the most obviously valid claim.
An incorrectly denied claim, or a disability rating that is too low, means substantial loss for the affected veteran and family.
Types of VA Disability Claims
Our experience shows that the types of claims that veterans most often successfully appeal involve:
- Mental health issues, including but not limited to:
- Gulf War Syndrome (Gulf War-related “chronic multisymptom illness” or “undiagnosed illnesses”)
- Agent Orange-related disabilities, including but not limited to:
- Prostate cancer
- Coronary artery disease
- Orthopedic injuries, including but not limited to:
- Knees (particularly as a secondary to foot-related disabilities)
- Ischemic heart disease
Other types of claims we investigate include:
- Alcoholism or Drug Abuse
- Amputation or Loss of Use
- Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
- Cold Weather Injuries and Residuals
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Exposure to Radioactive Substances
- Gunshot Wounds
- Hearing Loss or Inner Ear Injury
- Hepatitis C
- Knee, Leg and Arm Injuries
- Medical Malpractice
- Military Burn Pits
- Prescription Drug Abuse
- Scars and Disfigurement
- Sleep Apnea and Other Sleep
- Visual Impairment or Blindness
Our objective is to obtain the highest disability rating available to you, or to obtain Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) status (equivalent to 100 percent disability) for you.
We prepare cases to present and win in the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). We work to identify a solid basis for appealing a VA decision by thoroughly reviewing existing disability claim files and discussing the veterans’ condition and needs with them and/or with family members, friends, caretakers, etc.
We work with doctors, psychologists and other medical experts who are familiar with VA claims and can review medical records and/or examine veterans to render their medical opinions. We also consult vocational experts to have them evaluate veterans’ ability to maintain substantial employment.
We know the ins and outs of VA rules, regulations, Diagnostic Codes and court decisions guiding how the VA should evaluate disability benefits claims. We know what evidence the VA wants to see in a veteran’s disability claim.
The VA has accredited Berry Law Firm attorneys to represent veterans seeking VA benefits, and we have obtained millions of dollars in disability compensation for thousands of U.S. military veterans. We can help you seek the best possible outcome from your VA disability claim.
Why Hire Berry Law to Pursue Your VA Benefits Claim Appeal?
The VA disability benefits program is supposed to be designed so that all veterans in need can access it. However, the reality is that the voluminous rules and regulations necessary to govern such a large program serve to make the claim and claim appeals process convoluted and frustrating for those who need it most.
Our lawyers understand the appeals process, what evidence the VA requires to establish service-connected disability, and how to maximize disability ratings and back pay disabled veterans are due.
Let us review your existing VA disability claim at no charge to you. If we pursue an appeal on your behalf, we will not charge you a fee until we recover compensation for you.