VA Disability Appeals in Florida
Service to country is a proud and honorable act, and it should be duly compensated, including lifetime coverage for disabilities incurred while in service. Florida Veterans who served and were injured deserve the disability compensation that they are entitled to for their sacrifices. Florida is home to approximately 1.6 million Veterans, and Census estimates calculate that roughly 25% of Sunshine State Veterans have a service-connected disability rating, well above the national average of 17%. Regardless, there are many more Veterans in Florida who suffered injuries in service yet do not have a VA disability rating. An experienced Florida VA disability lawyer from Berry Law can help you fight for the disability compensation you are entitled to. There are many steps to getting disability benefits, and this article is intended to help you understand and accelerate the process in Florida.
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The process of applying for benefits is federal in nature and can be initiated from anywhere in the world. Being stationed in Florida makes the process of filing in Florida obvious, but regardless of whether you served in Mayport or Myanmar you can apply from Florida. To get started, you can use the VA’s website to begin an application, prepare paper forms to submit, or get help from a local Veterans Service Organization (VSO).
The first thing you will need to do is to complete VA Form 21-526EZ or you can start an application online through the VA eBenefits portal. You may need to submit additional forms or information based on the specifics of your situation. For example, you may need to submit VA Forms 21-4142 and 21-4142a if you want the VA to assist in gathering medical evidence on your behalf, or you may need to submit additional forms if you are filing a claim for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or for Total Disability based upon Individual Unemployability (TDIU). The package of these forms can be submitted to the VA to get your claim going.
Initial claims can take a long time to process, although they can be expedited for certain reasons, including terminal illness, Veteran age over 75, homelessness, or financial hardship. You may also be eligible to get certain processes advanced quicker if you were in a location named in a state of emergency. For example, Floridians affected by Hurricane Michael were given Advancement on Docket status for January-April 2019. Getting a claim sped up can improve total response time by months or years.
It is a good idea to put in an initial claim as soon as possible to set an early effective date for your claim. The effective date remains in place regardless of how long it takes to fully settle a claim, which may last several years depending on the individual claims. The importance of the effective date is that the Veteran is entitled to back pay at the monthly rate they are entitled to reaching from the final decision date all the way back to the effective date. For example, if you started your claim in September 2010, but didn’t get your 70% rating until September 2014, you would be granted backpay for four years at 70%
It is important to keep in mind that the effective date can be lost if you don’t maintain appeals for your claims. For instance, if you have 90 days to file a VAF-9 but wait too long to do so, you may have to reopen your claim resulting in a new effective date. This is one reason it is so important to appeal decisions thoroughly, to keep the effective date in place and receive all the compensation for their disabilities that they earned. See below for additional information about appealing VA decisions in Florida.
The effective date for each disability claim is independent so an earlier effective date for a shoulder claim will usually not apply to an initial claim for PTSD submitted years later.
Even the most thoroughly prepared claim for benefits may not yield the desired result for a Veteran’s initial claim. When initial claims are denied, given a lower-than-expected rating, or applied to an incorrect effective date, the Veteran has the right to appeal.
There are many ways to appeal a ruling based on what you believe the VA’s error was. Berry Law will help simplify the process for our Veterans, creating well researched appeals that have helped Veterans recover over $100 Million in backpay owed to them by the government.
We have representatives in multiple cities, but the location of your attorney does not actually impact the process because it is Federal in nature. Therefore, a Florida VA disability lawyer does not need to be physically located in Florida to help you appeal your VA decision. Our team has helped Veterans in Florida, and every other state in America, along with Veterans in US territories and foreign countries.
The appeals process can be long, but if you have preserved your effective date by keeping appeals open, you are entitled to receive back pay for every month that elapsed during the process.
Most appeals begin with filing a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) with your VA Regional Office. The NOD, usually due within one year of a rating decision, notifies the VA that you disagree with the decision that has been made. A NOD can simply state “I disagree” or can include substantial amounts of supporting evidence The Regional Office in Florida is located at: 9500 Bay Pines Blvd Bay Pines, FL 33744.
The Regional Office will reply with a Statement of Case (SOC), which presents the state of the case and is sent to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). The BVA will review the material to make its own determination. If you feel that the BVA has made an incorrect ruling, the next step is to appeal to the CAVC.
If you would like help appealing a VA decision in Florida, you can contact a Florida VA disability lawyer from Berry Law for a free consultation on what your best course of action may be.
Don’t assume that every Florida VA disability attorney is equally equipped to help you bring firepower to your appeal. if you choose to get help from an attorney for preparing and submitting your claim, you should pick one that will stick with you for the duration of your case, and who has represented Veterans with every type of appeal. A lengthy history of practicing Veterans law is a good indication that a Law Firm will not abandon you in the middle of an appeals process. Some firms only recently added Veterans Appeals to their Social Security practice and are not invested in helping Veterans.
The most difficult trait to evaluate is how well your lawyer will perform when it comes to extensive research, well-structured arguments, and compelling evidence. More experience often translates to superior work product, but not always. You may want to read reviews and testimonials from a potential law firm before signing up and ask about the level of research they perform on each individual case and what some of their most effective arguments have been in the past.
Having lawyers who are Veterans themselves is sometimes important to other Veterans. Utilizing a Florida VA appeals lawyer who has served in the military can facilitate better communication and reduce the amount of time that you need to spend explaining how the military works. Fellow Veterans often make great wingmen when it comes to helping you work through difficult situations. Will your law firm understand the intense stress of combat?
Selecting the right firm can make a big difference in reaching the outcome you want. Contact a skilled Florida VA disability lawyer from Berry Law for help appealing your VA decision.
Berry Law Firm was founded in 1965 by John Stevens Berry, Sr., who spent part of his time in the Army serving in Vietnam. During a JAG tour in Vietnam, he successfully defended Green Berets against murder charges, among other courtroom victories for his fellow servicemembers, earning him significant national praise. While developing a criminal defense practice, he also helped Veterans with legal work, particularly supporting fellow Vietnam Veterans who had been disabled in service. The firm is now run by John S. Berry, Jr., who retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the National Guard, after serving in both Bosnia and Iraq during Active Duty periods. John has helped grow the firm while keeping its roots in military work ethic and values.
In our ranks are Veterans from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. We have lawyers from each branch, and are proud to have both Officers and Enlisted, with service ranks ranging from E2 – O6 (including an E9). Our Veterans have served in Vietnam, Bosnia, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, at sea, and elsewhere around the world, and combined have earned hundreds of awards, ribbons, and commendations for their service. Also, on staff are members of the Reserves and National Guard still wearing the uniform.
John Berry received the Patriot Award from the ESGR, and the firm has been named as “Military and Veterans Law Firm of the Year” by multiple agencies. In 2019, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame for the Nebraska National Guard’s Regimental Training Institute.
We combine our military and legal training to assist Florida Veterans in their fight for disability benefits. A Florida VA disability lawyer from Berry Law Firm helps Vets from all over Florida, including those in cities such as:
VSO Locations in Florida
Unfortunately, certain legal circumstances do not allow a Florida
VA disability lawyer from Berry Law to help file an initial claim.
However, many Veterans utilize VSOs to file initial claims.
Some VSOs have special recognition from the VA for helping Veterans file claims
Local chapters in Florida include:
American Legion Posts in Florida
A few of the VA locations located in Florida are:
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