America’s Veterans should receive due compensation for their sacrifices in the service of our country, and this is true for the roughly 740,000 Veterans currently living in Illinois. The Census Bureau calculates that roughly 11% of that group have at least one service-connected disability, far below the 17% national average. There are many more who have suffered injuries yet do not have a VA disability rating, and our mission is to help these servicemembers receive the benefits that were promised to them.
At Berry Law Firm we represent Veterans and servicemembers from coast to coast. We pursue Veterans’ disability appeals at every VA Regional Office in the United States, and are dedicated to ensuring Veterans’ rights are protected. If you have been denied VA benefits, or are unhappy with your rating decision, you may want to enlist the support of an Illinois VA-certified disability advocate. Please read on to learn more about how we can help Veterans in Illinois.
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Getting started with a VA disability claim can begin from any location in the US, regardless of whether you served in that location. You can apply directly online through the VA, or get help from a Veterans Service Organization (VSO).
To get started, you need to complete VA Form 21-526EZ, or apply online through the VA eBenefits portal. You may need to submit additional forms based on your individual circumstances. Other relevant forms include VA Form 21-0781 or 21-0781a for PTSD claims, and VA Form 21-8940 and 21-4192 for Individual Unemployability (TDIU). The forms must be signed and dated, packaged with any evidence you wish for the VA to consider, and either mailed to the VA Evidence Intake Center in Janesville, Wisconsin, or faxed to the VA at the number listed on the form.
Initial claims generally take several months to process, so patience may be required.
It is important to start your claim early to set an early effective date for your claim. The effective date remains in place regardless of how long it takes to fully adjudicate a claim, which may last several years depending on the individual claims. The importance of the effective date is that the Veteran should receive back pay at the monthly rate they are entitled to reaching from the final decision date all the way back to the effective date.
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 miss the deadline, 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 Illinois.
Each individual disability claim has its own effective date based on when it was first claimed, so an earlier effective date for a shoulder claim will usually not apply to a gastrointestinal claim initially filed years later.
Unfortunately, the VA does not always make the correct decision for a Veteran’s initial claim. If an initial claim is denied, rated too low, or given an improper effective date, you can appeal the decision.
You can appeal in a number of different ways depending on how the decision was reached. Berry Law helps simplify the process for our clients, crafting well researched appeals that have achieved desired results for Veterans for decades.
We have attorneys and advocates in various locations throughout the US, but the location of your attorney does not actually impact the process because it is Federal in nature. We have helped clients in Illinois, and every other state in America, along with Veterans in US territories and foreign countries.
The appeals process can be long, but as long as 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.
The first type of appeal is usually a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). This form notifies the VA that you disagree with the decision that has been made. NODs can be as simple as filling out the form and commenting “I disagree”, or can include dozens of pages of supporting material. The Chicago Regional Office in 2122 West Taylor St., Chicago, IL, 60612.
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 conduct their own review to reach a decision. If you are unsatisfied with the BVA decision, you can then appeal to the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) for further adjudication.
If you would like help appealing a VA decision in Illinois you can contact Berry Law for a free consultation on what your options may be.
Not every Illinois VA disability attorney is identical. If you would like to use an attorney, it is a good idea to select one that will continue working with you throughout the multi-year process, 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 actually helping Veterans.
The most difficult trait to evaluate is how effective your lawyer will be at presenting your case with research, evidence, and arguments. While number of years of practice can serve as a proxy, it’s hard to gauge work product until it’s done. Testimonials and reviews can provide additional insight that may help you determine how well the firm has done for other Veterans.
You may also want to focus on attorneys who have actually served in the military. Opting for an Illinois VA appeals lawyer who has actually served in the military may help improve understand of your situation and eliminate the need to explain your military experiences to someone without similar experience. Having shared military values with your law firm can make the process more comfortable and less stressful. When it’s time to fix bayonets and charge a position, will your attorney understand?
Finally, consider the values of the firm to see if they align with your own. This is a law firm that you may be tied to for a decade so be sure that they will be a good partner.
Berry Law Firm was founded in 1965 by John Stevens Berry, Sr., who spent part of his time in the Army serving in Vietnam. While in Vietnam, Berry successfully defended the Green Berets in a highly publicized murder case, 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 attorneys hailing 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. We also have Reservists and National Guardsmen still serving.
We combine our military and legal training to assist Illinois Veterans in their fight for disability benefits.
Berry Law Firm helps Vets from all over Illinois, including in:
VSOs in Illinois
VSOs can help you file an initial claim.
Some VSOs have special recognition from the VA for helping Veterans file claims
DAV Chapters in Illinois include:
Some of the VA locations located in Illinois include:
Chicago Regional Office: 2122 West Taylor St., Chicago, IL 60612
INTAKE SITES (PRE-DISCHARGE CLAIMS ASSISTANCE)
COMPENSATION AND PENSION
VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION AND EMPLOYMENT
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