It is not uncommon for disabled veterans seeking veterans disability compensation to contact an attorney and note, many years ago during service, they were injured during basic training or combat, but just learned to live with the injury. Often times they could not even afford to visit a physician over the years.
Over the course of many years, the severity of the injury increased and has impacted the veteran’s ability to find employment. Veterans now find themselves unable to do the things they were always able to do because of the progression of their service-connected injury for diseases such as arthritis. Unemployed. Unemployable.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for the VA to deny a veteran’s claims for disability compensation due to both a lack of written documentation in their claims file and the duration of the period between the injury and when they sought VA compensation. The only thing the veteran has in support of his claim is what the VA refers to as “lay statements.”
Veterans should note there is law on their side and skilled veterans’ attorneys can assist in appealing their denials to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals or Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
First, the VA cannot deny claims merely because there is a lack of written documentation on the record. To deny the veteran’s claims based on lay statements the VA must make a finding the veteran’s lay statements are not credible.
Second, combat veterans may be entitled to a presumption their injuries were combat-related and this presumption can only be overcome by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.
Third, in VA proceedings the rules of evidence do not apply. Veterans can greatly increase the likelihood of a favorable credibility determination by asking buddies for letters to document the injury and impact on the veteran during service. Where buddy statements cannot be found, family members can also support a veteran by noting the change in a veteran’s abilities after active duty.
Skilled attorneys can assist the veteran to appeal the VA’s determination and help support the veteran’s claim through developing evidence and ensuring the veteran has received the presumptions he is entitled as a veteran.
Our monthly newsletter features about important and up-to-date veterans' law news, keeping you informed about the changes that matter.