One of the most important aspects of developing a VA disability claim is gathering and submitting VA claim evidence. The VA has the duty to assist, which means they must locate medical and service records when a veteran indicates which ones he or she needs to support a claim. However, it can be very beneficial for a veteran to gather his or her own evidence, providing the VA with as much information as possible.
There are a number of different types of VA claim evidence to consider when building a claim. Depending on what kind of disability you have, you might not need to submit all of them.
When trying to service-connect an injury or disability, finding a nexus, an inciting event, or stressors is the first step. If one of these events is documented in service records or service medical records, it might be easier to convince the VA to grant a disability rating.
Even if service records do not provide documentation of an injury, illness, or stressor, they can be beneficial when a veteran needs to prove he or she was in a certain location during a specific time. For example, if a veteran was poisoned by the water at Camp Lejeune, he or she needs to have been there between 1953 and 1987. A service record will contain any documentation showing the location of assigned units, along with travel vouchers, re-enlistment paperwork, and awards.
Only a veteran can request service records. They may only be requested by next of kin after a veteran passes away.
If a veteran is filing for more compensation due to unemployability, it is required that he or she discloses employers during the last five years in which he or she actually worked. This seems straightforward, but it can get more and more difficult if a veteran hasn’t worked in a long time. Businesses close, managers change, and it can be next to impossible tracking them down. The VA wants to obtain certain information, such as income earned or lost time due to illness, from the employers themselves.
Although the VA should provide medical exams during the claims process, veterans often go to private doctors to request opinions that can improve their claims. An expert in the field who understands a veteran’s medical history will provide a much more convincing opinion than a VA doctor’s assistant making a five-minute checkup.
Veterans often submit “buddy statements” from fellow service members who witnessed his or her injury or illness (or, in a PTSD case, saw the effect stressors took). These witnesses can corroborate the time, location, dates, and circumstances surrounding these events. If nothing related to a veteran’s condition is recorded in a service medical record, these statements can come in handy.
These don’t have to come from fellow service members, either. A veteran’s wife, children, or close friends can provide written documents about the behavioral changes they see or the way an injury affects the veteran’s life.
Collecting and submitting these documents might be easy for some, but much more difficult for others. Some disabilities don’t lend themselves to documentation as easily. If you are struggling to collect the information you need, you have the option to hire an attorney to help.
Berry Law was founded by a veteran, has many veterans among its attorneys and staff, and has been helping veterans increase disability ratings for decades. We understand what it’s like to fight against the VA as a current or former member of the armed services.
If you need to appeal a VA rating decision, contact us today. Your consultation is free.
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