Starting a VA Claim in Maine
The process of applying for benefits can be initiated from anywhere in the country, regardless of where you served or where you currently live. You can apply directly online through the VA or seek the help of a local VSO (Veterans Service Organization).
To get started, you need to complete VA Form 21-526EZ or apply online through the VA eBenefits portal. If you want the VA to collect medical evidence on your behalf, you must also complete VA Forms 21-4142 and 21-4142a. 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, although they can be expedited for certain reasons, including terminal illness, Veteran over 75 years old, homelessness, or financial hardship.
It is important to start your claim early to establish an early effective date. Once set, the effective date will not change regardless of how long it takes to fully adjudicate a claim, which may last several years depending on the individual claims you are filing. The importance of the effective date is that the Veteran is entitled to back pay at the monthly rate from the final decision date all the way back to the effective date.
You should also know 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 your disabilities. 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. See below for additional information about appealing VA decisions in Maine.
VA Appeals in Maine
Unfortunately, the VA does not always make the correct decision 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 separate avenues for appeal depending on what kind of mistake the VA made. Berry Law helps simplify the process for our clients, crafting well researched appeals that have been a crucial part of helping Veterans get the compensation they deserve, including back pay. Berry Law Firm has helped its clients recover over $100 Million in backpay over decades of client service.
We have attorneys and advocates in various locations throughout the US, but the location of your attorney does not actually impact the VA claims process because it is Federal in nature. So, you do not actually need a VA disability lawyer in Maine. In fact, we have helped clients in Maine and every other state in America, along with Veterans in US territories and foreign countries.
Some appeals processes can last years, 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.
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 Regional Office in Maine is located at: 1 VA Center, Augusta, ME 04330.
The Regional Office responds to NODs with a Statement of Case (SOC), which outlines of the case and is sent to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). The BVA will issue a decision that may or may not satisfy the Veteran. 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 Maine please reach out to a Maine VA disability lawyer on our team for more information and a free case evaluation.
Selecting a VA Certified Attorney Serving Maine
Not every Maine 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, 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. You may want to use a Firm with a long history of representing Veterans to make sure they will still be representing you if your case lasts for several years. 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. 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. You may also want to 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.
Military service may also be important to you. Choosing to work with a Maine VA appeals lawyer who has military experience can make communicating about difficult issues easier and reduce the amount of time that you need to spend explaining how the military works. Nothing can replace the camaraderie developed through shared service experiences. Will your law firm understand the intense stress of combat?
Lastly, you may want to gauge responsiveness to your inquiry to see how likely the attorney is to help quickly when you really need it. Contact a Maine VA disability lawyer from our team to see how we can help.
Berry Law Firm: The Veterans Law Firm
Berry Law Firm was established by Vietnam Veteran John Stevens Berry, Sr. While in Vietnam, Berry successfully defended the Green Berets in a highly publicized murder case, earning him significant national praise. After leaving the service, he opened his own firm focused on criminal defense, but where he also represented many Veterans on a pro bono basis against the VA. His son, John S. Berry, Jr., is now the Managing Partner of the Firm, and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the Nebraska National Guard, where he held multiple Command positions 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 feature both Officers and Enlisted, who left the service ranking between E2 and O6. Our Veterans have served in Vietnam, Bosnia, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, at sea, and elsewhere around the world, and have the accompanying ribbon racks of sustained superior service to the country. Also on staff are Reservists and National Guardsmen still attending drill and occasionally mobilizing.
We bring both our passion for the military and our passion for the law to help Maine Veterans with their legal needs.
Serving Clients from Across Maine
A Maine VA disability lawyer from Berry Law could help you fight for the benefits you deserve. Our team helps Vets from all over Maine, including individuals living in:
- Bar Harbor
Resources for Veterans in Maine
Many Veterans utilize VSOs to file initial claims. We often recommend Veterans seek the help of a local VSO when filing an initial claim, as their services are free. Certain VSOs are recognized by the VA to help Veterans file claims. VSOs include the American Legion, VFW Posts, and AMVETS.
VA Facilities in Maine
Examples of VA locations located in Maine are:
VA Medical Center
- Augusta, ME – VA Maine Healthcare System – Togus
- Bingham, ME – Mobile Medical Unit
- Fort Kent, ME – Fort Kent Access Point Clinic
- Houlton, ME – Houlton Satellite Clinic
Community Based Outpatient Clinic
- Bangor, ME – Bangor Community Based Outpatient Clinic
- Calais, ME – Calais Outpatient Clinic
- Caribou, ME – Aroostook County (Caribou) Community Based Outpatient Clinic
- Lewiston, ME – Lewiston/ Auburn Community Based Outpatient Clinic
- Lincoln, ME – Lincoln Community Based Outpatient Clinic
- Portland, ME – Portland Community Based Outpatient Clinic
- Rumford, ME – Rumford Community Based Outpatient Clinic
- Saco, ME – Saco Community Based Outpatient Clinic
- Bangor, ME – Bangor Vet Center
- Caribou, ME – Northern Maine Vet Center
- Lewiston, ME – Lewiston Vet Center
- Portland, ME – Portland Vet Center
- Springvale, ME – Sanford Vet Center
Regional Benefit Office
- Augusta, ME – Togus Regional Office